certainly one of my ten favorite films of all-time and possibly in the top five. the power of this film is rare. douglas is brilliant and outshines everyone else, but the performances from menjou and macready are still among the best supporting roles of the decade. the script is great and full of thought-provoking lines and discussions. each minute is chock full of material for dissection and thought; at under 90 minutes it’s probably the most tightly constructed feature film i’ve seen. it’s this quick pace and dense structure that helps make the ending all the more powerful. the german p.o.w. woman sings to the rowdy soldiers and quickly quiets them. they see beauty in an ugly world. we know that this is fleeting, though, for minutes later they will be ushered back onto the front lines. such is life: beauty exists and we should weep and enjoy it while it is there, but it’s fleeting at best.
fried’s music is great as expected, though i may enjoy his work on the killing even more. other than the ending, my favorite scenes are the tracking battle shots and kirk douglas chewing out menjou behind the desk. just brilliant and as powerful a 10 seconds as i’ve seen in film; even puts “they call me mr. tibbs!” to shame by comparison.
i love the juxtaposition of the cramped spaces of the trenches with the wide open interiors of the general staff. interesting that the cramped trenches are in the exterior and the open spaces are on the interior. perhaps an ironic commentary on the fact that humans have destroyed the outside world and have made our only refuge the interior spaces of the bourgeois. that’s another thing about the film – the struggle between the classes, or ranks, as it were. there is a clear divide between the generals and officers and the infantrymen.
lastly, the dynamics that kubrick creates between the various central figures is ingenious. macready playing menjou and vise versa, both of them playing douglas and other underlings. lieutenant roget and ralph meeker’s character. the general staff (the unseen entity) and macready, etc. it’s just great. fucking brilliant.