James M's review of THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963)


History can never forget the Second World War, the events that led to it, those who started it, the heroes of the war, and what ended the chaotic carnage. 

In the decades since Germany and Japan's respective surrender, there have been films set during the war that told historical or fictional stories about many events involving the Allied heroes of World War II. In 1963, the world saw the release of THE GREAT ESCAPE, starring the legendary Steve McQueen, which told the story of a daring historical escape by Allied POWs and went on to inspire films such as Dreamworks' CHICKEN RUN (2000).

The film is set in 1943, almost four years into the war, and sees a group of Allied prisoners, who are known for escaping German POW camps, moved to Luft Stalag III, run by a Luftwaffe Colonel named Von Luger, actually a stand-in for Stalag III's real commandant Fredrich Willhelm von Lindeiner-Wildau, who tells British Group Captain Ramsey not to make any attempts to escape, even though the Group Captain tells him that it is the sworn duty of every officer to escape. 

Captain Hilts, played by Steven McQueen, joins a group of POWs planning to escape, and, after some planning with plenty of hiccups, 76 of the prisoners, one of which is Hilts, break out of the camp using one of the tunnels they dug, and a few of them make it out of Germany while the others, including Captain Hilts, are either recaptured or killed with fifty of the escaping prisoners being executed by the Gestapo under Adolf Hitler's orders. War crime! The film ends with Hilts in the cooler at Stalag III, playing ball, and planning to escape. Again.

We own this film on DVD, and my father and I saw it together some couple of years back. This film is unforgettable, a product of it's time, and it was well-made, despite taking creative liberties with certain historical events. The sets and locations in the movie looked quite visually stunning, with Luft Stalag III reminding me of Stalag 13 from Hogan's Heroes and capturing that POW Camp vibe, and the action was well-done with the motorcycle chase being a fine highlight. Within a nearly 3 hour runtime, the movie perfectly sets up the plot, introduces us to the characters and their motivations, and showcases the heroes' efforts decently. Oh, and the soundtrack holds up for it's time.

THE GREAT ESCAPE is a worthwhile World War II film, and I'm happy to rate it a B+ & a 9.8/10. Perhaps I'll watch it again in the future when we have time.

See you soon.

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