Patton [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (1st July 2008).
The Film

The late 1960's and early 1970's was a volatile time in America, the country was fighting an unpopular war (Vietnam), the economy wasn't the best, it's political figures were being mocked and images of the war were shocking people on a daily basis (wow sounds familiar right?). Usually the film industry follows trends, and releases pictures that can relate to the youth, the same youth that were 'smoking drugs' and protesting, the same youth that were experimenting in sex (the sexual revolution), with movies like "Easy Rider" (1969) which broke ground. So what was a movie like "Patton" doing being released during this time? "Patton" was a patriotic film about a gung-ho General. If Fox was anything like it is today, this could have been seen as Hollywood's way of influencing people into being patriotic despite the events that are happening, to push an agenda. Maybe that was the point, or maybe the producers just wanted to make a great film about one of American history's most famous military leaders. I'd like to think it was the latter. I am surprised that the film was as popular as it was, considering the climate it was released in. I wonder how many 'kids' went to see it theatrically upon original release or whether the audiences were predominantly older people?

"Patton" tells the story of General George S. Patton Jr. (George C. Scott), a salty mouthed, hard fighting and opinionated General that led the U.S. forces in North Africa and into Europe. His big mouth often got him into trouble and his attitude was often brash. He didn't care what people thought of him, he was well educated, a religious man and cared for nothing more than to command a military into glorious battle, beyond that he had no political ambition. The film follows the General during the Second World War as he attempts to beat his competition (primarily British General Montgomery) into Berlin and beat Hitler. He of course, encounters a few roadblocks both from the enemy and within his own Army as well.

Famously played to utter perfection by the great George C. Scott, he incredibly refused to accept his Oscar for 'Best Actor' for this role stating that competition between actors was unfair. Whether or not you agree with his opinion, he well and truly embodied this character. I've never seen Patton in news reels or know anything about his personality so I have no frame of reference whether Scott was accurate, but to be honest I don't think that really matters. What matters is that Scott encompassed the spirit of the man and thus added to the overall tone and theme of the film. Patton was big, loud and ever present, just like the film itself and you'll discover this from the films astounding and unconventional opening where Scott parades onto the screen as Patton behind a giant American flag and begins to deliver a rousing speech to this soldiers. If there's anyway to best introduce the audience to this character it's this way, and to think screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola was fired (for writing that opening, among other things), then again, he'd have the last laugh when he was on stage accepting his Oscar for 'Best Adapted Screenplay'.

"Patton" portrays a very patriotic soldier in an over-the-top manner, the film is very much in the scale of epics, with large vistas that feature in the film's photography, grand battle scenes and the politics of commanding an army. The beautiful palatial estates that make up the Allied HQ's are shown in grand scale here. Added to this is the incredible score, which rouses the viewer but also provides a wonderful military theme for the title character himself.

"Patton" is a film made for war buffs, it's a grand film made at the wrong time yet managed to survive, mainly because of the great writing, directing and the unforgettable performance from the film's lead, one that's so incredibly strong it makes you forget there are other heavy hitters among the cast including the great Karl Malden. It's one of those films you have to see at least once, if not once a year to remind you occasionally of how they used to make them.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.20:1, this image is delivered to audiences at 1080 24/fps high-definition and has been created using AVC MPEG-4 compression and the lengthy film is placed onto a 50GB disc which allows the image to remain at a high bit-rate. The results at first are simply stunning. The image is incredibly sharp and detail is astounding for a film of this age, you can count the hairs on Scott's head it's so clear. Furthermore the image is pristine, without a single mark, speck or bit of dirt (aside from two instances of a hair on the bottom of the frame, which was probably dirt in the camera gate, that results in the dirt being printed on the film). Now, at first glance the transfer is stunning, however closer examination shows that Fox has done some drastic cosmetic surgery on this transfer. There's virtually no grain to be found, grain which was part of the film, and gave it its weight is nowhere to be found and as a result the image looks a little artificial, skin tones also look waxy. This transfer will likely impress average Joe consumer but for serious cinephiles it may pose a problem.

Audio

Four audio tracks are in included in English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 as well as English Dolby Digital 5.0, French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. For the purposes of the review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD soundtrack. I was a little worried about this soundtrack, and how the original audio would translated into this new HD track. Thankfully the sound engineers got this one right. The dialogue is crystal clear, ambient sound is effective and natural and makes great use of the sound space. I was impressed with the range and depth presented in this track including the score which soars through the 5.1 channels. Some elements showed their aged, including gun fire doesn't have any impact and neither does any of the other military vehicles like tanks and trucks. Aside from that it's a finely tuned, immersive track.
Optional subtitles are included in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.

Extras

Fox has released this film with all of its 'Cinema Classics' extras, in fact the second disc is a standard DVD identical to the one found in the DVD release. Included here is an introduction, an audio commentary, three incredible documentaries, photo galleries and a theatrical trailer. Below is a closer look at these supplements broken down per disc.

DISC ONE:

First up is a film introduction by co-screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola which runs for 4 minutes 54 seconds, in this clip Coppola talks about his involvement in writing the script and getting fired from the troubled production, winning the Oscar and what that meant for his career.

Next up is a feature-length audio commentary with co-screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola. The intro is just a taster for what's in store, this track is absolutely fascinating and I found myself glued to the screen for the entire duration of the film listening to Coppola comment on the production from his perspective. It's quite clear from the outset that Coppola was under a lot of pressure from the studio about the direction of the film's script, he comments on what scenes and moments were not approved by the executives and also takes us through the writing process under that kind of pressure which ultimately led to his being fired from the project. It was interesting to hear that the studio wasn't the only one a fight was amassed, but also Patton's family as well. There is plenty of fantastic information for war buffs, cinema buffs and anyone that's interested in this film. Although there some silent gaps, Coppola is entirely engaging and delivers one of the best tracks for any movie.

Rounding out the extras on this disc are a bonus trailer for:

- "Jumper" which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.

DISC TWO:

This is a standard DVD disc included in the package and features the following:

"History Through The Lens: Patton - A Rebel Revisited" a feature-length documentary which runs for 90 minutes, this is an insightful look at the real man. The documentary was produced for A&E and covers the real man versus the movie icon. We go in-depth into the military record of Patton, as we see some fascinating archival footage and photographs, interviews with historians, filmmakers and relatives of the real man. Having the film as the only frame of reference to the man it was great to finally get to understand the real figure behind the one Scott portrayed on screen. This feature makes a welcomed addition to this set, and is worth watching just as much as the film itself is.

Next we've got "Patton's Ghost Corps" another documentary that runs for 46 minutes 38 seconds, this is another historical look back, this time focusing on the men of the 3rd Army, which Patton commanded. These are real accounts of the harrowing conditions and battles they fought. It's an often heartbreaking and disturbing account and shows the true horrors of warfare. This feature provides an interesting counterpoint to the film, in which it depicts the man as a legend of war, a patriot, etc. Here we see the true consequences of war and how Patton virtually left these men on their own.

Following that is "The Making of Patton" documentary which runs for 49 minutes 49 seconds. Dating back to 1997 for the film's laser disc release this feature takes a retrospective look back at the making of the film, it's troubled production, also focuses on the iconic performance given by Scott among other things including the film's score. Filmmaker's are interviewed and provide their thoughts on the film, the character and more. It's a decent enough extra that covers a lot about the film, but plenty is also covered in the commentary anyway, what this does provide though is a look at the film from other angles.

There are two in-depth photo galleries included on this disc:

- "Production stills" which includes Jerry Goldsmith's complete musical score, this runs for 36 minutes 24 seconds. This is basically a montage of photos taken during the film's production set to the complete score, one that will remain as one of the greatest film scores of all time. Sit back and enjoy this extra, it's not your average still gallery simply because of the music.

- "Behind the scenes" is next and features an audio essay "The Historical Patton" on General George S. Patton Jr. by historian Charles Province. This feature runs for 53 minutes 19 seconds. This is another photo montage of moments captured during the filming, throughout this montage we will hear commentary providing fact based trivia about the man, his life, accomplishments, military history among other things. This is yet another fascinating extra and worth looking into.

Finally we've got the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 1 minute 46 seconds.

Overall

The Film: A Video: B- Audio: A Extras: A+ Overall: A-

 


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