The Great Escape (1963) – 4.5/5

A long, but great suspenseful escape drama with an interesting, well thought-out plot that’s supposedly based on real events, though I wonder just how accurate it all ultimately is given some of the stuff that goes on, especially near the end. And featuring some fine acting from just about everyone, including a super cool Steve Mcqueen who is the embodiment of all things American here, and, of course, the always gruffly hilarious Charles Bronson. And lots of other, lesser known people too, including the old guy with the white hair from Jurassic Park who is completely unrecognizable here as a much younger man. Just a great cast all around.

The film is extremely long, and does take about a half hour to get into, but, much like a lot of movies from this era and earlier, once it hits its stride, it really takes off. I couldn’t quite figure out why it was so engaging; by all accounts, a three-hour film about a bunch of guys held in a Nazi POW camp plotting their escape shouldn’t be this gosh darn entertaining, but it is. Everything about it works: the plan is as complex as it is daring, the people hatching the plan are interesting and charismatic and just gel really well together, and the payoff is extremely fun to watch, and suspenseful as all hell.

Ultimately, I loved this film. It’s like a heist movie, only backwards, and involving a prison rather than an object. The only thing I thought odd about the whole thing was how benign a lot of the Nazi’s were toward the prisoners. I understand that this was a POW camp and prisoners of war are treated better than their civilian counterparts, and that **SPOILERS** a lot of them were executed in the end, sadly, **END SPOILERS** but I had a hard time believing that Nazis, a group known for their excessive cruelty, would react so passively toward prisoners attempting to escape, to the point of amusement even, as though the prisoners were just a bunch of silly boys playing pranks and not trained enemy soldiers willing to kill them the moment their backs are turned.

It just seemed odd to me that none of them thought to, I don’t know, torture prisoners who attempted escape, or at least beat them up a little? I mean, sending them into isolation obviously didn’t have any effect on them, and the Nazis didn’t have a problem ***SPOILERS** shooting some of them in the end, **END SPOILERS** so why not try torturing those who misbehave? Or depriving them of food, or anything really that would discourage them from escaping? It just seems like such an obvious thing to do, is all. Maybe that is what happened in real life and they just didn’t want to show it in the movie, but it’s a pretty glaring omission if so.

Anyway, great movie otherwise. Strongly recommended.



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