Inexplicably, Paths of Glory currently rests in 42nd place on the top 250 of IMDB. Not that it is a bad film, but have this many people really seen it and considered it to be a classic? I realize that the giant population of internet nerds out there who think director Stanley Kubrick is a God and could film dolphins having sex and still get an 8 on IMDB.
The truth is that Kubrick is a great director, but really hit his stride three years later with the classic Spartacus. Paths is a simple film, almost too simple... really unlike his later work. Kirk Douglas plays a French colonel who is given the impossible task to trying to take a hill in WWI. His soldiers are worn out and shredded to pieces from the constant barrages of artillery. When he gives the order to take the hill, a third of the soldiers never even leave the trenches. This angers Douglas's commanding officer enough to request that several of the soldiers be put to a firing squad for cowardice. Douglas decides to investigate and defend said soldiers in their court marshall hearing.
That's about it for plot. At 87 min, there is barely anything to Paths of Glory. Douglas is fine and so is the rest of the cast. The problem is that there is not enough for them to do. My description probably sounds boring... there's a reason for that. The only really positive thing I can say is that the black and white looks great on the battlefield. It adds a starkness to the plight of the soldiers who are faced with certain death if they charge up the hill. It reminded me of that scene in Glory where the regiment attacks the fort.
This film is really for the cinema nerds out there who want to study Kubrick's work. There is some nice visuals for the time period. There is just not enough story to make this essential viewing.