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The Great Escape

the great adventure! the great entertainment!

Starring:

Angus Lennie

Charles BronsonCharles Bronson

David McCallum

Donald Pleasence

Gordon Jackson

Hannes Messemer

James Coburn

James Donald

James Garner

John Leyton

Jud Taylor

Nigel Stock

Richard AttenboroughRichard Attenborough

Robert Graf

Steve McQueenSteve McQueen

Directed by:

John Sturges

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 172 minutes

US Certificate: Approved UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

Country: United States

Christmas without The Great Escape would be like if Santa Claus himself had died of a massive heart attack and stopped coming. John Sturges’ World War Two classic is one that appeals to all generations and ages thanks to excellent action, timeless story-telling and a group of likeable characters.

The Great Escape is the kind-of-based-on-a-true-story retelling of a mass escape attempt by Allied Prisoners of War at a German Camp in 1944. The Germans have rather foolishly put all the troublesome escape artists – including Hilts ‘the Cooler King’ (McQueen), Bartlett ‘Big X’ (Attenborough) and Danny ‘Tunnel King’ (Bronson) – into an apparently escape proof camp. Something about eggs and a basket springs to mind here. Inevitably, the prisoners come together to formulate a plan to get out of the camps using tunnels and a lot of time and effort goes into the preparation and execution of the plan before the big day arrives.

The entertainment value of TGE is massive and it needs to be to carry the film for the huge nearly three hour runtime. The tension builds throughout the detailed preparations, then the frenetic escape takes place and is over like a flash, and finally multiple what-happened-next strands are nice and diverse and focus on a range of experiences of short-lived freedom. Furthermore, the brave finale is no sugar-coated cop out and Sturges has to be given credit for taking this risk.

Obviously, Steve McQueen’s loose-cannon has always stolen the limelight but The Great Escape is about the group of characters as a whole. Each one brings something to the piece – the stiff-upper-lipped British Officers, the escape artists, the work-horses – and, a concept that has been used in countless prison break films since, each person has their defining job or characteristic. This mix of characters share a great chemistry and lots of amusing and enlightening moments come out of it.

It's Got: Loveable characters, plenty of tension, a balanced mix between plot and action

It Needs: To be put on the TV on Christmas Day afternoon and for you to ignore your loved ones for three hours

DVD Extras Special Edition - commentary from cast and crew, three interesting featurettes based on the real events, trivia and photo gallery - a good package for those wanting to know more. DVD Extras Rating: 8/10

Alternatives:

Chicken Run, Colditz, The Way Back

Summary

To many, The Great Escape is more important to Christmas than Jesus, and this entertaining World War Two prison break movie deserves to be. Great characters, action and putting-it-up-Jerry makes John Sturges’ movie a classic war movie.

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