Movie Reviews: The Great Escape

Enlisting the help of talented children always helps freshen up movie reviews. As such, “M” will be guest-blogging to assist in giving a review and impressions of the classic 1963 movie, The Great Escape.

Before getting too deep into the review, a few points of order. The movie will be reviewed against a few criteria: story, acting, music, and overall impressions. Additionally, the review will contain spoilers, so if you haven’t had the pleasure, go watch the movie now and return when you have been properly educated.

The Great Escape stars, Steve McQueenJames Garner, and Richard Attenborough, among many others, in a harrowing depiction of captured airmen planning an escape from a Nazi prison camp during World War II.


Story

Though dragging at points, the story and pacing was very well executed. Each scene did a good job keeping the audience informed without pandering, and the flow worked well to build the tension and frustration the prisoners must have felt while they were in prison, counting the days until they could breath free air again.

M: The story behind the plot was compelling, jumping right into the action as the prisoners are brought into the camp. From the first moment we were unsure how they would escape, but surely they must.


Acting

Seeing many of these actors in later movies before watching the Great Escape, it was wonderful seeing how each actor’s talents were brought to bear, even in what was the opening stages of their careers. McQueen did a wonderful job portraying the brash, unflappable American, though his lines were a bit forced at points. Garner walked a tight line between flippant and serious, giving the final moments of Donald Pleasence’s ‘Forger’ character a meaningful end. Attenborough was well placed, though he seemed to shift between a maniacal devotion and stuck-up stoicism so quickly it made his character difficult to empathize with.

M: The cast was chosen well. The actors did a good job communicating the reality of the situation, each character playing their part and role in such a way to make you believe they knew what they were talking about.


Music

Typical of the era, lots of symphonic elements punctuated the movie. Horns, strings, and percussion led the way into each moment of action, with the strings or loud horns pulling at the viewers heart strings when a particular character faced peril. Perhaps the most memorable was the theme, reminiscent of the whistle tune from The Bridge Over the River Kwai.

M: Since music sets the tone for any given scene, the selections did a spectacular job to amplify the action, drama, and suspense throughout the movie. The music during the action fit well because of an upbeat, positive, and hopeful impression. Similarly, the drama and suspense were amplified, with each crescendo matching the moments on film.


Overall Impressions

I was young when I first saw this movie, and still remember the inspiration it gave me during hours of play to dig tunnels, plan escapes, and imagine the evil soldiers I must do battle with. Each of the characters in this movie allowed me to draw inspiration and courage. Watching it again as I’m older, I see a deeper level of just how long their odds were, and just how dangerous the circumstances they found themselves in were. I am looking forward to researching the story and real-life characters portrayed in the movie. This movie is definitely in my Top 25 (maybe 50), of All Time Favorites.

M: After seeing this movie, it gives me a lot of context about World War II and how it might have been to be in somebody else’s shoes, living in a less fortunate time. Growing up in the 21st century, I am incredibly thankful that I’m not fighting any world wars, and I enjoy all the more the period of history I am fortunate enough to experience. This is definitely a Top 10 in my movie list now.

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