Paths of Glory (1957)Finally saw the Kubrick in it.
At least not when anyone spoke. With the notable exception of Adolphe Menjou. And those of you who know how I feel about him will understand why this is a big exception. Kubrick was supposedly an "actor's director," but the performances in this picture are caricature at best and, you should pardon the expression, over the top at worst. Kirk Douglas is very good, sure, but he has to clench his jaw so much, so often, even when blowing that goddamned whistle, it's just painful.
Why did I like it so much before? The story is compelling: a company commander is forced to select three soldiers from among his men for court martial when a campaign ordered by an ambitious general (scarry old George Macready) fails horribly and scapegoats are needed. Like other Kubrick flicks, there are some scenes that are beautifully set up and executed — the tracking shot through the trenches, the terrified German girl singing — the starkness, the contrast between the French HQ and the brigade command quarters. Still worth it for that? Sure. But the story deserved a more artful telling.
So if you want a good miscarriage of justice movie set in approximately the same era, try Breaker Morant (1980). And if you want a better WWI treatise, you can't go wrong with Series 4 of Blackadder.