The Great Escape

"Excellent"

The Great Escape Review


Coming on the heels of John Sturges' The Magnificent Seven three years earlier, 1963's The Great Escape shows how quickly the ambitious epic can turn into a rote, readymade piece of filmmaking - a Hollywood masterpiece by design. There's a formal, somewhat stilted feel to its three-hour story about a group of imprisoned World War II officers and their struggle to break out of a Nazi P.O.W. camp, and anybody who thinks that Michael Bay is a bullying thug of a filmmaker who likes pushing people's emotions around can come here to see where he got it from. But for all its flaws, Escape has some of the most memorable moments in any war film, and some excellent performances from its ensemble cast.

Based on a true story, The Great Escape is set during the tail end of World War II, when a variety of officers from different countries were sent to Stalag Luft III, a prison camp designed to handle the most diligent escape attempts. Both fearless and duty-bound, the men spend no time with long prologues or chit-chat about what to do; they, along with the movie, immediately set to work, using the skills they know best. There's Anthony Hendley, the "scrounger" skilled at digging up needed provisions; James Garner, at his best when he's being charmingly unctuous to his Nazi captors; Charles Bronson, as the "tunnel king" Danny Velinski, offering a nice combination of two-fisted bravado and sensitive-guy neurosis; and Donald Pleasance, the British document forger, who brings a steely, proud stoicism to his role that sets the movie's emotional feel. His is the most convincing performance, which makes sense given that really did time in a German P.O.W. camp.

But this is Steve McQueen's movie. From the quiet bravado he shows when he helps his fellow inmates escape, to the smirking I'll-be-back way he tosses a baseball in his jail cell, to the simply kick-ass way he roars across the German countryside on a motorcycle, this is the moment where McQueen defined himself not just as a great American actor, but as a living representative of what America's all about. The movie's official tragedy is that 50 of the men who escaped were caught and killed by Nazis. But the real one is the moment when McQueen himself is finally caught on the lush German countryside. Bleeding and swaddled in barbed wire, he looks sadly emasculated.

There are other parts of Escape worth cheering - James Coburn's humor, Elmer Bernstein's wonderful score - but John Sturges isn't a very clever director, and his approach to the war story itself often feels pat and insubstantial. The script suffers from its share of improbabilities and clichés - none worse than the way Bronson gets a sudden case of claustrophobia at just the wrong time after spending his life making tunnels. So Escape sits somewhere between Stalag 17 and the average episode of Hogan's Heroes - a professionally made World War II tale, but not an emotionally resonant on.

On the new DVD, director Sturges (with various others) offers a commentary track, plus a nifty pop-up trivia track. A second disc offers numerous featurettes and archival documentaries. Highly recommended disc set.

He's going back! He's going back!



The Great Escape

Facts and Figures

Genre: War

Run time: 172 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 4th July 1963

Box Office Worldwide: $5M

Budget: $4M

Distributed by: VCI

Production compaines: The Mirisch Corporation

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

IMDB: 8.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Captain Hilts, as Flight Lt. Hendley, as Roger Bartlett, as Group Capt. Ramsey "The SBO", as Flight Lt. Danny Velinski, as Flight Lt. Colin Blythe "The Forger", as Flying Officer Louis Sedgwick "The Manufacturer", Hannes Messemer as Kommandant von Luger, David McCallum as Lt. Cmdr. Eric Ashley-Pitt "Dispersal", as Flight Lt. Sandy MacDonald "Intelligence", John Leyton as Flight Lt. William Dickes "The Tunneler", Angus Lennie as Flying Officer Archibald Ives "The Mole", Nigel Stock as Flight Lt. Denys Cavendish "The Surveyor", Robert Graf as Werner 'The Ferret', as Goff, Hans Reiser as Herr Kuhn, Harry Riebauer as Stratwitch, as Sorren, Robert Freitag as Capt. Posen, Ulrich Beiger as Preissen, George Mikell as Lt. Dietrich, Robert Desmond as Griffith 'Tailor', Til Kiwe as Frick, Heinz Weiss as Kramer, Tom Adams as Dai Nimmo ('Diversions'), Karl-Otto Alberty as S.S. Officer Steinach, Lawrence Montaigne as Haynes ('Diversions')

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Chips Movie Review

Chips Movie Review

It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the...

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

Beauty And The Beast Movie Review

This remake of Disney's 1991 classic is remarkably faithful, using present-day digital animation effects to...

The Salesman Movie Review

The Salesman Movie Review

Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi won his second Oscar with this astute drama which, like 2011's...

Get Out Movie Review

Get Out Movie Review

Leave it to a comedian to make one of the scariest movies in recent memory....

Personal Shopper Movie Review

Personal Shopper Movie Review

After winning a series of major awards for her role in Olivier Assayas' Clouds of...

Advertisement
Certain Women Movie Review

Certain Women Movie Review

In films like Wendy and Lucy and Meek's Cutoff, writer-director Kelly Reichardt has told sharply...

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

Kong: Skull Island Movie Review

After the success of 2014's Godzilla reboot, the Warner Bros monsters get their own franchise,...

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Viceroy's House Movie Review

Filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) draws on her own family history to explore...

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

Trespass Against Us Movie Review

With an extra dose of attitude and energy, this Irish comedy-drama hits us like a...

Logan Movie Review

Logan Movie Review

Hugh Jackman returns to his signature role one last time (so he says), reuniting with...

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.