Director John Sturges’ labor of love, The Great Escape is a film based on a true account of the mass escape from a real-life German POW camp in WWII. It’s a long one, at 172 minutes, but it utilizes every minute to tell its story, as long-winded as it may be. It also utilizes probably the biggest cast of the 1960s; Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance, and so many more names are all found here, an ensemble cast before such a thing was made popular in Hollywood.
The film starts off with the prisoners arriving at the newly built, reinforced, “escape-free” prison camp, and quickly settling in, before prisoner Roger Bartlett comes along and begins to plan the greatest escape ever to hit a POW camp. This has quite a bit in common with The Bridge on the River Kwai, as well as a central figure amongst the prisoners; in this case, Steve McQueen. While Kwai was more concerned with the men’s efforts on the bridge and their plots to undermine their captors; in essence, the drama, The Great Escape is more concerned with having a good time than sticking too seriously to its story. The film has quite the sense of humor; comedic bits and pieces are everywhere to be found, so much so I thought the film was a comedy at first. The music helps this notion along quite a bit as well.
The story itself takes a while to get to where it wants to go, but thankfully the film has plenty to do in the meantime, much like the prisoners themselves digging the tunnel and gathering all the necessary materials. I liked this a great deal, but I don’t know if it’s worth the praise enough to make it halfway up the IMDb Top 250; that’s a heck of a list to stay on. Still, this is a very entertaining film that tells one heck of a story, and the performances by all are added up to an excellent ensemble display.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10