Review: MacArthur (1977)

macarthur

A great General and an even greater glory hound!

Written By: Hal Barwood & Matthew Robbins
Directed By: Joseph Sargent

There are times when MacArthur is an insightful look at the man known as General Douglas MacArthur. There are also times when the movie feels like it is a prop for long winded speeches and preaching to the masses. The film shines in the insightful moments and is rudderless in the artificial film moments. MacArthur is an uneven film, but it is kept afloat by what it does right.

MacArthur is at its best when it is presenting the propaganda of war and the glory hound that is General MacArthur. The man we are given in MacArthur isn’t just a ra-ra general, he is a man who understands his image and how to maintain it. I found the image aspect of MacArthur to be fascinating, it is very rare for a biopic of a beloved figure to present him in a darker light. MacArthur is the classic tale of taking the bad with the good. General MacArthur is a glory hound and his methods aren’t always the best, but they do get the job done. He is a man that deserves his glory because he is willing to take the risks to attain glory that others aren’t. War is a business, as much as we would like to think that war is national and put into effect only for nationalistic goals, it is a breeding ground for the business of the individual. General MacArthur was a master at the strategies of physical war as well as the strategies of war as a propellant for your own ambition. When in the realm of image, popularity and propaganda MacArthur succeeds and is a fascinating movie to watch.

There are some issues with the dialogue in MacArthur, there are too many instances where it sounds artificial and far too often it takes the form of proclamations and speeches as opposed to what people would actually say. The biggest problem with MacArthur is that any time it moves away from the idea of image it loses focus and lacks any depth. Once the film leaves World War II it’s nowhere near as interesting and loses steam to the point where the ending is a silent wheeze instead of a loud yell.

It may be an uneven movie, but what I liked about MacArthur I really liked. I enjoyed Gregory Peck for the most part and I really loved the way they looked at the business of war for the large players. It does peter out in the end and is a far lesser film when it moves away from the idea of image. But, as far as historical biopics go MacArthur is a good entry in the genre. It’s not a movie I would seek out, but it won’t hurt you to take it in.

Rating:

***

Cheers,
Bill

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