After settling his differences with a Japanese PoW camp commander, a British colonel co-operates to oversee his men's construction of a railway bridge for their captors - while oblivious to a plan by the Allies to destroy it.
Based on a true story, a group of allied escape artist-type prisoners-of-war (POW's) are all put in an 'escape proof' camp. Their leader decides to try to take out several hundred all at once. The first half of the film is played for comedy as the prisoners mostly outwit their jailers to dig the escape tunnel. The second half is high adventure as they use boats and trains and planes to get out of occupied Europe. Written by
John Vogel <email@example.com>
During the climatic motorcycle chase, John Sturges allowed Steve McQueen to ride (in disguise) as one of the pursuing German soldiers, so that in the final sequence, through the magic of editing, he's actually chasing himself. See more »
Sedgwick is shown reading "Liberation", a newspaper not published during the German occupation of France. See more »
If you're going to critique the history, then know the history.
I find it difficult to believe that some reviewers' negative reactions to this film are based on their (misguided) beliefs that none of this could possibly have happened. Comments like these make it crystal clear that what some people don't know about history is appalling. If you are going to judge a film based on historical fact, it helps if you know what it is.
It is well-documented what amazing technical feats the POW's were able to accomplish in the stalags. There was even an entire section of the British Secret Service dedicated to coming up with all sorts of clever ways to send these captured men the tools they needed to facilitate their escape attempts, i.e., sandwiching maps between the split sides of a record album (yes, the Germans allowed the prisoners to have records in the camps) or compasses in pens. At Colditz Castle, one of the more forbidding stalags, (actually an offlag since is was for officers only), many, many tunnels were dug and disguises created. One man actually created a German sergeant's uniform totally from scratch, donned a moustache and created an overall impersonation so realistic, it fooled two out of three sets of sentries. Some of the POW's built and concealed an entire glider that would have carried two men off the roof and over the wall! The only reason it didn't fly was because the prison was liberated before they got the chance! The Colditz experience is well documented. There are many books written about that particular prison complete with photographs, including one by a German officer confirming these amazing escapes and attempts. The reviewers who doubt what can be done when necessity is truly the mother of invention should look for them and learn something.
As for the prisoners not being in jumpsuits, as suggested by one reviewer as one reason to question the authenticity of the film? Ludicrous, POW's wore what they were captured in. The German military (different from the Gestapo and the SS) considered them soldiers and allowed them to keep their badges of rank.
As for the film itself, it is long, but absorbing. There are historical flaws (as there are in all movies), but several of the former POW's participated in the filming process, keeping it, for the most part, very authentic. As for the emphasis on Americans, it's true they were not among the escapees per se, but several did assist in the effort before they were transferred out, as mentioned by a previous reviewer. However, you must remember that the movie was made for an American audience in 1963, long before international distribution revenue became so important to a studio's bottom line. They needed American stars who would appeal to an American audience. Who knows, perhaps if they were to remake it today, the cast would be all British and German, but I doubt it (see "Hart's War" where not only the plot, but all the British and Canadian characters that were in the book, disappeared).
All in all, "The Great Escape" is an entertaining movie telling a fascinating story of what ordinary men can achieve in adverse circumstances. It's well worth the time.
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