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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

The best war film ever made

Author: GusF from Ireland
13 March 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

My fifth favourite film of all time, it gets my vote as the best war film ever made. I love that its focus on is not a great battle but the ingenuity and bravery of ordinary men in an extraordinary situation. The film is a thrilling, rollicking adventure with moments of great escapism but at the same time it is often moving and it's extremely well characterised. The film is incredibly well structured. It may be 2 hours and 43 minutes long yet it drags for less than two minutes of that time.

As it says at the beginning of the film, the characters are fictionalised composites of the Stalag Luft III inmates but it hues closely to the events surrounding the actual Great Escape. It's a film that respects the audience's intelligence. There is no happy ending. In the film, as in real life, only 3 of the 76 escapees managed to evade capture and 50 of those who were recaptured were murdered. The film is dedicated to their memory.

It has one of the best casts of any film that I've ever seen and John Sturges' direction is fantastic. I don't think that there's anyone who gives a bad performance. Sturges also directed my fourth favourite film, "The Magnificent Seven", in which Steve McQueen, James Coburn and Charles Bronson also starred. Both films certainly benefit from excellent scores by Elmer Bernstein.

I liked the fact that not all of the Nazis are treated as being completely evil. Werner, who disappears after the first half sadly, doesn't seem too different from the kind of soldier that you'd find in any army and even the camp commandment Colonel von Luger shows a glimmer of conscience when he tells Ramsey that 50 of the escapees have been shot.

They don't make them like this anymore. I'm glad that the film was made in 1963 because I doubt that it would be made with the same subtlety, intelligence or attention to detail now. They would probably give it a Hollywood style ending.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

John Sturges Takes You Prisoner

Author: wes-connors from Los Angeles
2 July 2012

In 1942, Allied prisoners of World War II who repeatedly try to escape are placed by the Germans in a maximum security camp called "Stalag Luft III". As you might expect, they try to escape. Repeatedly. Giving the prisoners a lot of time to meet without supervision, the Germans may be foreshadowing the "Hogan's Heroes" TV series that poked fun at this film. Top-billed is super-cool Steve McQueen (as Virgil Hilts). He's always earning himself solitary confinement. You'll notice Mr. McQueen looks sharper coming out of "The Cooler" than he does going in, sliding his jacket down the wall of the cell without fear of scratching the leather. That's cool...

Also billed above the title are super-nice James Garner (as Bob Hendley) and mastermind Richard Attenborough (as Roger Bartlett), who travels with English-accented Gordon Jackson (as Andy "Mac" MacDonald). Known as a scrounger, Mr. Garner takes commendable action when told his forger pal Donald Pleasance (as Colin Blythe) should not go on "The Great Escape" due to a disability. Garner insists on taking his friend, although it will risk the mission - and both their lives. That's nice...

Most valuable players may be muscular Charles Bronson (as Danny Velinski) and his blond companion John Leyton (as William "Willie" Dickes). These two tunnel diggers actually love each other; you can't definitively say they are gay, but you can't definitively say they aren't, either. Most surprising are the number of people who actually make it out successfully, with Australian manufacturer James Coburn (as Louis Sedgwick) being the second most likely to succeed, due to his choosing not to travel light. British sailor David McCallum (as Eric Ashley-Pitt) develops ways to disperse dirt, and Angus Lennie (as Archibald "Archie" Ives) is a short-lived favorite...

Senior British officer James Donald (as Ramsey) holds down the fort and Hannes Messemer (as Oberst von Luger) humanizes the opposition with a notably "Best Supporting Actor" worthy performance. Nicely produced and directed by John Sturges, "This is a true story. Although the characters are composites of real men and time and place have been compressed, every detail of the escape is the way it really happened." Helping Mr. Sturges in the production are composer Elmer Bernstein, photographer Daniel L. Fapp, and film editor Ferris Webster. This movie is a little long and probably not all that accurate, but "The Great Escape" is a great one.

********* The Great Escape (6/20/63) John Sturges ~ Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A good tragic war-adventure with a few faults

Author: Red-Barracuda from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
4 January 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The true story that The Great Escape is based on is indeed a remarkable one. It's certainly one of the key reasons that this war film has attained such a level of affection over the years. Although, it's ultimately hardly a happy story seeing as many of the participants never made it out alive. This is, for me its greatest trump card. As The Great Escape is essentially a tragedy dressed up as an upbeat war-adventure. It's an unusual combination but it works well. What has made the film so popular is no doubt a combination of this tragic true story with the rousing escape scenes, the all-star cast and the famous music. It's a war film that doesn't really have a lot of action; it's more of a character-based drama for the most part, so the people depicted here are fairly well-drawn. Although it does have to be said that the characters are not faultless – James Coburn has truly the worst Australian accent I have ever heard, Charles Bronson's claustrophobia on the escape night is a tiresome addition to his character seeing as he was instrumental in actually building the tunnel, while Steve McQueen's character came across a little too devil-may-care to be entirely believable - the scene where he knocks over a guard with no repercussions at all was just stretching believability too much for me. In fact, overall, the film made the prisoner-of-war camp out to be a very lenient place indeed, where the inmates were seemingly at liberty to show blatant disrespect to the Germans, and were able to run rings round them quite easily. Now it may be that these details are based on reality, I cannot say with any certainty but I do have my doubts and I think that Hollywood has simply sugar-coated this side of the story. Nevertheless, despite these drawbacks The Great Escape remains an engaging film. Most probably, this is mainly due to the incredible cast at its disposal and a few iconic scenes. But also the simple fact that it's a great story.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Escape and flight

Author: Polaris_DiB from United States
18 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Fun, optimistic prisoner-of-war movie about a group of Allied POWs put into a German camp exclusively for those who tend to try to escape. Thus, they try to escape, en masse. Care is put into the camaraderie, personality, and general friendliness of most of the characters, while showing in a couple scenes how nevertheless the imprisoned life is slowly demoralizing some of the men.

The escape itself is interesting, but the movie really didn't focus a lot on the watchful Goons (Nazis), making it seem at times as if the whole camp is given free reign to just do what they choose--obviously, making escape much more likely. Somehow I kind of expect the whole ordeal that this movie is based off of was a bit more challenging and paranoid, and I would have liked to see that.

Where the movie does get really good is post-escape, as the several characters split ways and attempt to get out of the country, to various results. Steve McQueen's bike chase is, of course, a famous scene, made all the more silly by the knowledge that McQueen himself is the one who suggested it, and all the more riveting because his own bike is used and he also doubled for one of the Germans, meaning in this movie Steve McQueen chases himself. One thing few prison or prisoner-of-war escape movies tend to focus on is the problem of getting back into the world after outside the prison walls--those movies tend to assume that once the tunnel is dug, freedom is pretty much a skip and a leap away. It's much more compelling to see the POWs trying to blend in, sneak through, hide, steal, row, ride, and fly their way out of the country.


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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Blockbuster Cast & Stellar Performances

Author: DKosty123 from United States
8 March 2007

This is a long film based upon Paul Brickhill's true story novel of a real escape of Allied Prisoners from a WW 2 pow camp. Parts of this were later borrowed loosely for Hogan's Heros. The story is followed pretty faithfully except composites were used of the real people involved.

A cast of Steve McQueen, James Garner, Donald Pleasance, Charles Bronson, & many others makes this film into what it's title suggests, great escapist fare. The filming was actually done in Germany giving the viewer an authentic look & feel to viewing the film.

The film tells the story of the escape well & how the prisoners overcame the Germans, poor conditions, & managed to do the impossible in a historical way. Even though it runs over 3 hours, if you have never seen it, it is worth while viewing. If you like the film, the book is even better.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

"Give up your hopeless attempt to escape."

Author: classicsoncall from Florida, New York
4 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm getting around to viewing films I might have seen only once many years ago and usually upon their original theatrical release, so today I had the opportunity to take a look at "The Great Escape". It's funny how you recollect some things from a movie and not others. Virtually everyone can recall the thrilling motorcycle chase by Steve McQueen's character, while for some reason I distinctly remember the manner in which the POW's got rid of the dirt from the tunnels. On the flip side, I had to be reminded of the potato vodka scene ('no smoking while you're drinking!'), and Hendley (James Garner) snookering Werner (Robert Graf) out of his wallet.

The thought that struck me today was how sanitized the movie appears to be compared to what real conditions must have been like, even in an elite camp for captured Air Force and RAF officers. Though I can grant that officers of the German Luftwaffe might have harbored a professional respect for fellow fliers, it seems that a character like Captain Hilts (McQueen) probably should have worn out his welcome after only a single escape attempt. But it's a true story, so somewhere between the reality of the actual event and poetic license used in the film there lies a fascinating tale.

McQueen of course is exceptional in his role, as are Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson and Donald Pleasence. Garner is top billed with McQueen and Attenborough in the opening credits, though his role seems underplayed compared to the other two, while James Coburn seems to achieve more visibility after the escape. The film offers an interesting convention with it's assortment of vignettes featuring each of the main characters in relation to one another.

While watching, one might need to bring a grittier sense of reality to the proceedings than offered on screen, as the grim prospect of tunneling fifty tons of dirt never seems to weigh on events as they unfold. There's also the lack of perspective in regards to the time it took for the escape to occur, even though the video sleeve stated that six hundred British and American Air Force men took over a year to plan and execute the largest ever mass escape in history in March of 1944. A follow up to what happened to the successful escapees would have been a nice touch as well.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A true classic that will have you saying "wow!"

Author: Vhalor from Florida, United States
14 April 2006

"The Great Escape" is indeed a classic that delivers all of the key parts of an amazing movie; that is, a strong, developing cast of varied characters, strong moments of suspense, and unpredictable turns in the plot. After watching the movie, it suddenly hit me that there were no female actors at all, which only strengthens the fact that this classic succeeded in giving a supreme plot without relying on strong sexual scenes (or violence for the matter) like so many of today's films do. The film also delivers some very excellent views at the antagonists of the story, which in turn strengthen the overall view of the main characters. Steve McQueen is brilliantly funny and remains the King of Cool (or "King of the Cooler" in this case!), and as always, I found myself cheering for James Coburn. If you have not yet seen this amazing piece of work, tune in to AMC or visit your local movie rental store, because it is a late night classic that you will never let out of your mind.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

The best WWII film ever!

Author: sharkey197 from United States
23 December 2005

I was a junior in high school when this movie was first shown on television. My dad, a WWII vet, urged me to sit down with him and watch it. But being a girl, and much too cool to watch movies with my father, I declined and spent the evening doing "important" things of which I have no memory. Several years later, I saw it in college on the big screen and adored it. What a great story! And it made me proud to be an American, thinking of all those brave men who sacrificed so much for something they knew would probably not work, but which might help the war effort just a bit. It is the kind of sacrifice that my generation just didn't "get" and now that I am older have the utmost respect for. The generation that fought that war is truly the great generation of the 20th century. And one of my biggest regrets ever is that I did not watch it that night with my dad. It would have been a great bonding experience and maybe I would have gotten even more out of it watching it with someone who was actually in that war. I am about to show this film to my critical viewing class and I hope it effects them in the same way. This is a story that needs to be in the minds and hearts of our young people.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Shortest 3 Hour Movie Ever Made

Author: mxbishop from Fort Collins, Colorado
23 December 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

_The Great Escape_ is one of those rare gems of a movie - that when you're channel surfing and happen upon it - you just stop and watch it. What is it that makes this movie so appealing, particularly to men? First, each character is extremely well-developed. The director takes extra care to make sure we understand each of their roles and motivations. Second, the interplay of the characters is so well done, that even though we know it's just a movie, we're hanging on to every word. But the real reason why this movie appeals so much to men, is that it shows male friendship in the most powerful way possible - against the backdrop of life and death in a German POW camp.

For example, consider the relationship between Hendley (the Scrounger) and Blythe (the Forger). This interplay could have been left out of the movie, but we would have lost what these characters cared about. Instead, we see these men, caught in a desperate situation, helping each other. In particular, Garner, goes out of his way to secure Blythe's freedom, and the payoff comes by showing Garner's face when his friend is killed. The sheer horror on his face is completely transferred to the viewer - and the emotion we feel here is heavy, indeed.

Also, consider the scene where Bartlett (Attenborough) and MacDonald (Gordon Jackson) are boarding the train, and are discovered by the Gestapo. The trick used by the Gestapo ("Good luck.") is the very same trick MacDonald warned his men to watch out for. This is a very tense moment in the film, and suddenly, their cover is blown and a chase ensues. Masterfully done.

Finally, there's Virgil Hilts (Steve McQueen). While his role was mostly a fictional creation, McQueen's personality embodies the eternal human spirit. We get this message in several ways. McQueen does not wear an army/air-force uniform - instead he wears jeans and a sweatshirt - visually not fitting into the military at all. Second, we cannot help but sense his desire to get out of there as soon as possible. He's not waiting around for the big escape plan. And third, there's the trademark Steve McQueen smirk, particularly evident when confronted by Col von Luger during his first escape attempt, and later, when he's caught in the barbed wire at the end. That smirk tells you everything you need to know about his character. If you watch closely, when Hilts is placed in the cooler for the last time, we see the same German guard locking him up as before. Hilts starts his usual baseball routine, and the guard, sensing Hilt's unstoppable rebel nature for the very first time, simply shakes his head as he walks away. It's just a little detail most people miss - but for those who catch it, it's kind of an "a-ha" moment for the audience.

If you've never seen this movie, you owe it to yourself to give it a viewing. If you have seen it, watch it again, and study how the director uses friendship throughout the film to make an emotional connection with his audience. Great film.

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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Great Movie

Author: mrshaffer2003 from United States
27 October 2005

This has to be one of the greatest movies I've even seen. I think my family and friends can vouch for numerous times I've watched it.

We can thank the movie "The Magnificent Seven" for the "Great Escape" being made. Director John Sturges originally tried to get MGM's backing in 1953, but was turned town due to demise of over half the escapees. It wasn't until he achieved great success with the magnificent seven, that he won over the Mirisch Company and United Artist to do such a film and make it so entertaining and not deviating from the details of the escape.

Steve McQueen and James Garner are a pleasure to watch, and It's amazing how the writers were able to fit McQueens into the film.

I'd recommend it to everyone.

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