This is one of several classic British war films made during the 1950s, but which I never had the opportunity to watch before: in retrospect, it has survived better than some of the others because the central character is not English and, therefore, such stiff-upper-lip sentiments are kept largely at bay throughout; the fact that he's actually a German who's portrayed as a resourceful - even charming - scoundrel rather than the stereotypical Nazi villain, makes the film all the more interesting when viewed today!
It details the exciting true-life escape story of ace pilot Franz von Werra (an ideally cast Hardy Kruger in his first international role) from several British prison camps in 1940; ironically, he was lost at sea not long after having reached Germany and resumed his war duty! The plot is basically split into three sections: the first establishes von Werra's defiance of authority and his resolve to break free from confinement - culminating with his initial escape attempt; transferred to a new camp, we immediately see him at work on building a tunnel - this time, he's part of a mass breakout and, by impersonating a Dutch flyer, almost manages to take off with a plane belonging to the R.A.F.!; finally, he leaps off a train transporting him to a Canadian prison and, bravely enduring the freezing weather, makes it across the border by boat into the still neutral U.S.A.
Absorbing and suspenseful, this is an excellent example of its type and period, with all the care that professional handling could bestow; above all, the quality of Eric Cross's black-and-white cinematography is most evident during the scenes of hardship in von Werra's various getaways. While this is Hardy Kruger's show all the way, the supporting cast highlights numerous minor staples of British cinema from this era, namely Michael Goodliffe, Alec McCowen, Terence Alexander and John Van Eyssen.
Ultimately, the best compliment I can pay to the film is perhaps that it makes for a worthy companion piece to Robert Bresson's inspirational A MAN ESCAPED (1956; one of the greatest of all films) and Andrew L. Stone's very funny THE PASSWORD IS COURAGE (1962) - both also dealing with the story of true-life P.O.W. escapees - although THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY is, in hindsight, neither as introspectively solemn as the former nor as gently humorous as the latter. In any case, I've watched and thoroughly enjoyed a good many contemporaneous British war films (THE CRUEL SEA , THE COLDITZ STORY , THE DAM BUSTERS  and ICE COLD IN ALEX , to name but a few); there are, however, quite a few more I need to catch up with - THE WOODEN HORSE (1950), ALBERT R.N. (1953), DUNKIRK (1958), I WAS MONTY'S DOUBLE (1958), DANGER WITHIN (1959), etc.
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