There is a point in every boy’s life where they discover the classic war films. Ranging from tales of the World Wars to modern interpretations of Vietnam, these films often depict either the larger than life Audie Murphy-esque heroes or the real darkness that is seen behind the lines. Today’s movie borders somewhere in between serving as a great adventure story based on the real life account of Paul Brickhill’s escape from German POW camp Stalag Luft III. Starring such greats as Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Donald Pleasence and many more, this is one of the most iconic War films ever made. I present to you, The Great Escape.
Today’s Key Movie:
During the height of World War II, captured members of the Allied Forces plot their escape from a German prison camp. Determined to escape, the allies team together and begin work on the largest planned escape in the history of the war.
Why this movie?
The first time I saw this film was sometime when I was in elementary. We were studying world history and touched on the subject of World War II. Being elementary, only the basic ideas were covered and I wanted to know more, what happened during this dark time in human history and what stories came out of this interesting time period? My dad, being a bit of an amateur historian, took the opportunity to introduce me to some of the most iconic films about that war and that, of course,included this very film. Being sure to clarify that much of this tale was sensationalized by Hollywood, we set in for what would be an incredible three hours of film that I would never forget.
But is this a ‘Good’ movie?
The film itself is an incredible heist film but instead of breaking into a place, the team is attempting to break out. Serving as somewhat of a blueprint for every heist film to come, this film shows a perfect meticulous plan laid out and put into place by an interconnected group of soldiers. From planning to acquisitions to even the heavy labor, each member of the crew has a specialty in what is almost a traditional RPG party. It was fascinating to watch what a determined group of individuals can do when they pull together for a common goal and boy does this group pull together.
The crew itself is composed of some of the biggest actors that Hollywood could put together. The list is immense, including such talents as James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Donald Pleasence, and, of course, Steve McQueen. To have such a large cast of some of the most well known actors of their time, it is an impressive feat to have such a film produced. Unsurprisingly, each and every actor in this film nail their rolls perfectly. Director John Sturges, who was also responsible for The Magnificent Seven, manages to not only perfectly balance each and every role but weaves a brilliant tale of hardship, hope and heroics in only the most perfect of ways.
One other aspect of the film worth noting is the fantastic score by Elmer Bernstein. This score goes down as one of the finest film scores of all time with some of the most iconic themes and songs you will ever hear. Bernstein is a God when it comes to music having scored such films as To Kill A Mockingbird, The Magnificent Seven and even The Ghostbusters. This is one score that, even if you haven’t seen the film, it is very likely you have heard it’s music.
All in all, this is an incredibly well made film and is one that really stands the test of time. I can not say enough about how good this movie is. While there is not a ton of ‘action’ that most war movies are known for, this is a film that has a ton of drama with some of the most intense moments in any film. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the most epic scenes in the film near the end, where McQueen has one of the most iconic motor-cycle scenes for it’s time. While this didn’t take place in the real event, McQueen being a motorcycle enthusiast made sure he got a chance to show it.
OK, where do I get this movie?
If you can’t find a copy of this in your local Target or Walmart then you have one of the worst ones in the nation. I would honestly be surprised if this film ever went out of print as it is pretty iconic. If you want to order one, you can find it here on a great digital transfer showing the real film quality that has been preserved over time. That being said, I would adore a proper 4k transfer of this as I imagine it would look amazing.
While much of this film was a fictionalized account of the actual event, you can read more about the real Great Escape here. It’s a pretty interesting account.
As usual, here is the trailer:
Late To The Game 11/21/2019
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
For more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here. and, If you dig Music, I have a semi regular series called Stand Out Albums that covers some of my favorite records I have come across in life.
As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!