THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963)
Starring- Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasance
Few movies are more fun to watch than this one. Based on a true story that inspired a popular book and then this film, The Great Escape is a rousing adventure about British and American POWs in a German camp during World War II. Unhappy with many escape attempts by their prisoners, the Germans put all the best escape artists in one super camp to keep a very watchful eye on them. It isn't a stretch to guess what happens when all the top escape artists get together- they plan to escape.
Leading the escape is British Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett (Attenborough) who is also known as 'Big X.' Under Bartlett's supervision each aspect of the escape is planned out to the nth degree, as the prisoners work to free 250 men. Among the fabulous cast of characters are Henley (Garner) who serves as the Scrounger, helping to obtain anything the men may need. There is also Cavendish, the Surveyor, Danny (Charles Bronson) and Willy who work as the Tunnel Kings, Sedgewick (James Coburn), the Manufacturer and Blythe (Pleasance), the Forger. Working on his own is Capt. Hilts (McQueen), whose many escape attempts land him in solitary confinement and earn him the nickname of 'Cooler King.' Menacing the prisoners is Kommandant Von Luger, who thinks any escape attempts from his compound are futile.
The Great Escape is full of great action, suspense, humor and various story lines about the many aspects that go into the massive escape effort. The film can really be divided into two halves, the prep work before the escape, and the aftermath of the escape. Both sections of the film are great, but the tone changes from suspenseful and expository to action packed. Even though the film seems tame by today's standards there is a great sense of tension during the actual escape as the Germans threaten to discover it. I always get sweaty palms during certain scenes even though I know the outcome. Also, the action scenes are as good as anything in today's action films. I am speaking mostly of Hilts' skillful motorcycle riding as he evades Nazi pursuers.
If you have an appreciation for the action genre or World War II, this film will satisfy on both counts. McQueen's reputation as an action star was cemented with his work as the 'Cooler King.' The Great Escape serves as a who's who for stars from this time period, and even the minor roles are filled by superb actors who bring a sense of camaraderie and realism to the film.
Things to Watch for-
Elmer Bernstein's iconic musical score
Flying Officer Ives (aka The Mole)
Tom, Dick and Harry
Ya vas lyublyu
"I was trying to cut my way through your wire because I want to get out."