(Stanley Kubrick) (1957)
The wise war-monger, Clausewitz, decreed that the objective should be relinquished when its value was not equal to the cost of its gain. There are many instances in human conflict where this seemingly trite point has been blanketed and lost in the fog, notably the struggle on the western front, 1914-1918.
In Kubrick’s grey and gritty story, Kirk Douglas is given the ridiculous task of taking the ‘Ant-Hill’, a fortified patch of raised ground held by an enemy armed to the teeth. With the inevitable failure of this mission, the superior officer in charge needs a patsy, so three foot soldiers are selected at random for a show-trial and execution by firing squad.
This is a wonderful film, told in matter-of-fact terms, bleakly designed and stunningly shot, with three standout performances: Douglas, stoic as the man in the middle, Adolphe Menjou, as a crafty and conscienceless general, and George Macready as Douglas’ immediate superior, a compelling impersonation of (pardon the french) a complete shit.