History Channel // 2009 // 470 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // November 16th, 2009
Putting viewers right in the middle of the action with one of the most complicated and aggressive military men of all time.
Patton 360° takes the best and worst of History and glues them together so inextricably that it's impossible to separate them. The result is a mixture of genuine historical content and interesting eyewitness accounts, coupled with excessively busy editing and fancy CGI. Undoubtedly, it's easy to be put off by the MTV-style visuals and the overreliance on repetitive clichés, but for the most part the show is more commendable than not. Call it a happy medium, or at least a reasonably well-adjusted one.
Over Patton 360°'s ten episodes (compiled here on three discs), every one of General George S. Patton's major World War II campaigns is dissected in detail, sometimes over more than one episode. This is not a biographical show, although excerpts from Patton's diaries and letters are used. The first episode starts with Patton's 1943 battle for the Moroccan city of Casablanca and the series progresses from there to cover his showdown with German general Erwin Rommel in northern Africa, the invasion of Sicily, and most of Patton's greatest triumphs after D-Day until the end of the war. The series also covers some of the less-flattering events in Patton's career, such as his ego-driven feud with British commander Bernard Montgomery, his ego-fueled clashes with his superiors Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley, and the infamous incidents when he slapped two soldiers suffering from battle fatigue that almost cost him his command. The show doesn't dwell on these excessively, but it does give a thorough picture of how they affected Patton's career. It also describes the brief period between the end of WWII and his death later that year. Nonetheless, for the most part, the series sticks with Patton's military victories and debacles rather than his overall life.
To illustrate these events, Patton 360° uses a mixture of archival footage, CG animation, and interviews with WWII veterans and historians. The interviews with veterans are the best part. These men all have remarkable stories to tell and their accounts are the most gripping aspect of the series. Men of all ranks, from officers to Patton's personal driver, are interviewed. What's significant is that while all admire Patton's skills as a strategist, many have wildly differing opinions on his leadership skills. Some have never forgiven him for the slapping incidents, while a black member of a segregated tank division expresses resentment for Patton's open skepticism of black soldiers' intellect. In allowing these men to express themselves and tell their stories honestly and completely, Patton 360° deserves considerable credit.
It's in the visual presentation that the series is not as successful. While it's understandable (in financial terms, that is) that History wants to compete with the likes of Spike and ESPN, that shouldn't mean that the channel should smother historical content with the worst kind of hyperkinetic editing and flashy graphics. The CG animation isn't bad -- it's typical video game quality -- but it's chopped up into snippets so brief that it's not always easy to follow or appreciate. What's more, several CG shots are repeated over and over again, sometimes in one episode, so the episodes begin to blur together as the series progresses. Even the archival footage isn't spared; not only is it edited into frenzied montages that don't linger on any shot for more than a few seconds, but it's also "enhanced" with CG effects that make it look like a cheap '80s music video. Also, the narration is serviceable but sometimes relies too much on the worst kind of macho clichés ("This time, he's taking the battle to them!"). Patton himself was famously the most aggressive military leader the Allies had, but that's no reason to turn his story into episodes of Manswers.
Nonetheless, if you can withstand the techno-flash and frat-boy affectations, Patton 360° is at least worth watching. The accounts by surviving veterans are so enthralling that in many ways, they're really the main draw of this set, much more than the fancy visuals. Just be prepared to suffer through enough jump cuts and camera tricks to give Oliver Stone motion sickness.
Presentation is typical History: non-anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer, Dolby Stereo mix, both satisfactory. There are no extras.
Not guilty, but pass the Dramamine.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 470 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site