Saturday 19 October 2013

The Great Escape [1963]

The Great Escape, upon its release, was largely panned by the critics – after all it was a big-budget blockbuster from the big bad stable of Hollywood. Yes, it did play to the gallery by glorifying the Allied soldiers’ courage, bravery, honour and so forth. However, with its enduring theme of attempted prison escape by POW’s held captive during WWII, this managed to be an immensely enjoyable ride. Based on actual events, John Sturges brought in a muscular dose of hardened men and male bonding, and chose the dramatic potential of the story over its politics, while making this scintillating, cracking and infectious genre movie. The Germans, in order to make their own lives easier, assemble the most troublesome POWs to Stalag Luft III; however, unwittingly, it ends up becoming a congregation of really smart and resourceful men who put together their diverse skills – ranging from tunnel digging to maps to prison intelligence to making tools to document forgery to stealing and more – for a spectacular escape plan. Even though the actual escape doesn’t end on a happy note for most, the fact that they managed to conceive and then execute such an outrageously improbable plan, and in turn ensured significant diversion of German troops to capture them, imbued a high cinematic quotient to this incredible story, and Sturges turned that into a solid entertainer filled with humour, suspense, camaraderie, adventure and tragedy. Steve McQueen, with his effortless charisma, was the most notable member of the all-star cast which comprised of Richard Attenborough, James Garner, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, and many others, and his daredevil flight on a motorbike remains its single most memorable sequence.

Director: John Sturges
Genre: War Drama/Thriller/Adventure/Ensemble Film/Prison Film
Language: English/German/French
Country: US

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