Starring: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough
Director: John Sturges
Running Time: 165 mins
The Great Escape is an American film about the true story of Allied POWs captured in Nazi Germany who band together to plan a daring escape from their heavily-guarded camp.
When it comes to war movies, they don’t come anywhere near as spirited as The Great Escape. It’s not a perfect film by any means, but it’s a film that has such confidence in itself, with an inspiring and uplifting tone throughout about unity and determination that makes it an effortlessly entertaining watch from start to finish.
If there’s one thing that really helps to get the film’s relentlessly patriotic vibe across, it’s the performances. With quite a large ensemble cast, great characters can often be obscured and forgotten about, but The Great Escape does brilliantly to provide you with a fully satisfying story that covers each one of the main characters in all their glory, whether they’re from America, Britain, Australia, Canada or elsewhere, further hammering home the film’s call for banding together to fight tyranny.
And those performances from the likes of Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough, James Garner, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance and James Coburn are all fantastic. Each actor brings their signature style to their character, and that helps immensely to make the film all the more entertaining, and to make each character stand out all the more, which is so important going into the film’s enthralling final act.
You’d be hard pressed not to enjoy this film, as it takes on the World War Two genre with a positive and more light-hearted attitude, whilst still paying respect to the true story of those who undertook this daring escape. Its optimism throughout put a smile on my face continuously, and only when the film was really going for sadness was it not so (yet not too downbeat either).
Despite absolutely loving the film, I can’t ignore the major issue of the length. Back in the 60s, the epic was so popular, but now it’s a genre that feels very outdated. The spirit and blockbuster factor is what really wins me over in this film, along with a good degree of tension throughout, but I can’t help but find fault with its slow pacing and rather middling first act, both of which don’t allow the film to be as tense and high-stakes as it should be, and that’s why The Great Escape gets a 7.9 from me.