Synopsis: French soldiers face a court-martial after refusing to continue a suicide mission.
• Kirk Douglas provided the tarnished yet strong heart of the film.
• Visually grim, dirty, horrific, and vast almost at the same time. The long panning shots were something few directors accomplish so well today, making it look like a “modern” film.
• Highlighted the ridiculousness of WWI — and war in general — from the squeaky clean generals to the horrid battlefields.
• Showed how war can destroy humanity and torture those that retain it. We shed the tears for the lost soldiers and for the officers that lost their humanity.
• The ending was filled with as much hope as uncertainty in the almost endless loop that was WWI.
• Could be misinterpreted as being anti-military when it was against war itself.
I’m not afraid of dying tomorrow, only of getting killed
No one was clean in this film. The generals uncaringly made decisions in their high castles to stay out of the mud, but were perhaps the most unclean. The genuine tears resulting from the horrid decisions all flowed as they did in the ancient Greek war epics, because wisdom dictates that war has not really changed. War tarnishes everyone, especially those that retain their humanity. Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas) did everything he could to save his men from being punished for being human. He failed to make the judges listen to reason, and then all but sacrificed his soul through blackmail to force out an out of control general. And while that general was forced out, Dax still failed. WWI was perhaps one of the most meaningless wars in history that led to the yet more disastrous WWII. The hope, in the end, was through officers like Dax, who always fought for what was right. That was the true path of glory to be found here.
Rotten Tomatoes — 95%