"Patton" Blu-ray Review
June 13, 2008 by Zach Demeter
Itís been nearly forty years since Patton arrived in theaters in 1970 and walked home with seven Oscars a year later. The film awarded George S. Scott his first Oscar, which he famously turned down, saying that he did not ďfeel himself to be in any competition with other actors.ĒThe films other awards, including best art direction, film editing, sound, writing, director and picture, made it one of the most successful and award winning films to date. On top of being awarded for the myriad of things that made the film such a fantastic and historical piece is the direct effect it had on the great Francis Ford Coppolaís career, who gave us The Godfather a year after his Oscar win.
Patton encompasses the World War II career of legendary General George S. Patton Jr., largely considered one of Americaís greatest (and most controversial) generals. From the rousing speech that opens the movie, Audiences immediately know that theyíre in for a fascinating look at the deeply religious and demanding general who led his armies to victory and was a master with tanks on the battlefield. The film starts out in North Africa and proceeds on through to the invasion of Germany and the fall of the Third Reich, where he was eventually relieved as Occupational Commander of Germany.
Yet another in the long list of great films that Iíve never seen, Patton piqued my interest not only due to Coppolaís involvement but also because Iíve always been interested in the history of the World Wars. While the battlefield isnít often seen in such detail as other recent World War II epics, the history that the film packs into it is really where I found myself the most interested. While Iíd heard of Patton previously by name, I never took the time to really research him and while the film does smudge a few details here and there, it is mostly an accurate portrayal in the film, although actor George S. Scott has stated that he didnít feel he was portraying the historical General with enough ďcomplexity.Ē
Honestly aside from the length itís hard to fault this film for anything and even when taking the length into account itís not really a knock at it, it simply means you have to set aside a good chunk of time to truly enjoy the film. We see Patton through the various stages of his World War II career, from his expertise on the battlefield and even the controversy that whirled around him. Whatís remarkable is that Patton was a general who got things done and honestly could have cared less about what others thought. At one instance he even begins to damn the President before correcting himself, something that is key to understanding Pattonís character: fiercely loyal, but not afraid (except when it comes to the president) to speak to someone who he feels isnít doing their job.
Such is the case with the famous instance of Patton slapping a military officer for being in the hospital with no physical injuries. The incident in the film was only for one soldier, but in reality there were two instances of this type of behavior from Patton, but itís not that it should be surprising. Pattonís troops were some of the best in existence during World War II and itís his attitude and insistence that his men not only do their best but also that they are the best is what make the film so fascinating to watch. The speech during which Patton apologizes for his behavior to his troops (in so many words, anyway) paints a perfect portrait of the man that he was.
Despite Patton being every bit the hard-ass he was claimed to be, he also had a deeply religious and sympathetic side as well. He was truly a remarkable man and this film did one hell of a job portraying every side of his character, no matter what Scott felt about his performance. Between the incredible supporting cast of Karl Malden and Stephen Young, as Gen. Omar N. Bradley and Capt. Chester B. Hansen respectively, and the now historic music by Jerry Goldsmith, Patton truly is one of the great films of the ages.
Although most films that have won a myriad of Oscars and other awards often lose their charm from the overexposure, Patton has aged remarkably well and even as a relatively young man I still enjoyed the film thirty-eight years after its original release. Even though Iím used to more modern films with a myriad of directing styles, special effects and fancy camera work, I didnít find Patton to be disorienting in the least. Perhaps the directing style was more modern for its time, but the film feels like it could have been made yesterday, so either itís aged extremely well or I was just really impressed by the film. Considering I remember seeing the film on VHS at my local library many times and thinking it looked ďboringĒ, Iím surprised by just how much I enjoyed this film. Not that my five year old self would be as impressed by the films I enjoy today, of course.
Overall Patton comes Highly Recommended. Itís very much a character piece, so those looking for some big war movie will need to look elsewhere (perhaps Saving Private Ryan will do you good), but the character of Patton is so interesting to me that the three hours that this film ran really just seemed to fly byÖwhich may be odd to say about a film that is made up mostly of talking heads.
Fox has brought its two-disc edition of Patton from 2006 to Blu-ray with remarkable efforts. Not only are all of the extras ported over, but the transfers that the film has absolutely blew me away. After watching both modern and older films on Blu-ray, I thought Iíd seen all the format had to offer but my jaw genuinely dropped at the start of Patton. More on that later, as we have to tackle the packaging first; Patton arrives in a two-disc Blu-ray case with the usual Blu-ray inserts telling you to keep your Blu-ray player updated. Onto the menu system we have a nicely done pop-up menu system for the film itself, but the second disc menu is identical to the second disc of the DVD release. No changes were made as it acts and loads just like a normal DVD menu and I daresay everything on the second disc has been upscaled from 480p, as it has a blurry/hazy quality about it all.
And nowÖthe video and audio! I could write volumes about the video transfer for this film, which comes in a AVC codec @ 23mbs, and perhaps itís because I havenít reviewed all that many Blu-rayís yet, but I honestly think Patton is the best video transfer Iíve ever seen for a film, Blu-ray or no. The image clarity is unsurpassed, with an incredible amount of detail crammed into every frame. The opening shot of Patton against the giant American flag is jaw-dropping, as each of the red, white and blue colors is equally defined with no bleed of any sort. It is truly an astounding transfer and one I give perfect marks to. Itís surprising to me that a film approaching its fortieth anniversary would dominate over a more modern film, but there you have it.
Unfortunately the audio isnít quite the experience that the video transfer was, as some of the sound effects still sound a bit tinny at times. A lot of the dialogue and action sequences sound great, but the bullet and cannon fire just isnít as powerful as it is in more recent films. Still, the DTS-HD MA track comes through loud and clear and thatís all one could really hope for. Taking into account the films age, the track still sounds impressive, but itís not as shocking as the video transfer.
Moving onto the extras for the film on the first disc we have an intro by Francis Ford Coppola (4:54) where he introduces the movie and some quick tidbits about it. Heís also on board for the commentary track, where he deluges the listener with information for the first hour and forty five minutes of the film, only to peter out and end up providing quite the dry mix for the rest of the track. He picks it up towards the end, but once that intermission hits he seems to run dry with facts.
For disc two we have an exact replica of the second disc from the 2006 DVD release. I honestly think they would have been better suited just making this second disc a DVD, as the upscaling of the video to 1080p for these behind-the-scenes segments was really not worth it. On top of the upscaling the documentaries and extras are all in 4x3, so thereís no real reason to waste a second Blu-ray discÖbut the formats still young, so Fox is likely trying to please everyone by going all out on some of these releases.
The first documentary is "History through the Lens: Patton - A Rebel Revisited Documentary" (1:30:10), which details the man himself with commentary from the living that knew him and also a lot of historians as well. Itís an incredibly fascinating documentary and at over an hour and a half rivals the entertainment you get from the film itself, simply because the documentary goes much more in-depth inside Pattonís life. Moving on is "Patton's Ghost Corps Documentary" (46:38), which focuses on the living veterans who served under Patton during his campaign in Germany during World War II. An enormous amount of archival footage is thrown into this extra along with the commentary from the soldiers themselves, making this extra just as engaging as the Patton documentary itself.
Moving on to "The Making of Patton Documentary" (49:49), we get to hear from cast and crew about their experiences making the film. We also hear from Oliver Stone who throws in some political commentary about actions Nixon took that may have been influenced by Pattonís character. An interesting piece as itís not your usual making-of and the long time between the filmís release and the interviews allows everyone to be much more candid and open about their experiences.
Finally there is a Production Still Gallery Accompanied by Jerry Goldsmith's Complete Musical Score (36:24) as well as a Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery Accompanied by an Audio essay on the Historical Patton (53:19) by Charles M. Province. The Original Theatrical Trailer (1:46) is thrown in as well, which is rather neat to see simply because the transfer of the trailer is so dirty compared to the glorious 1080p film transfer we have on the first disc.
Overall Patton is both a remarkable film and a remarkable Blu-ray release. Quite honestly Iíll be showing this film off to anyone who doubts what the Blu-ray format can achieve; I was skeptical myself and poo-pooed the real benefits of 1080p vs. upscaled 480p, but this film has made me a real believer in the format. Itís not an entirely necessary format change like the VHS to DVD switch was, but damn if it isnít a pretty one. Recommended.
Patton is now available on Blu-ray.