The Great Escape (1963)

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Based on the true story of the mass break out of Allied P.O.W.s from Stalag Luft North, The Great Escape is the prisoner of war film.

This particular camp is populated with an all-star cast of Thespians, film stars and character actors alike in a story of good old British stiff upper-lips and boy’s own ingenuity. The first half of the film is all about camaraderie and pulling together in adversity with plenty of knockabout humour and easy-going charm; even the Camp Commandant is shown as not such a bad sort as he is distanced from the Nazis represented by the SS and Gestapo. The second half is a darker affair as the escape begins in earnest and we follow each of the multinational groups of men as they try to make their way through enemy territory. All of the impressive cast pull their weight – although James Coburn once again demonstrates his astounding inability to do accents – but inevitably it’s the charisma and charm of the US contingent that steals the show in the form of James Garner’s smooth talking hustler and the irrepressibly defiant Steve McQueen, whose memorable motorcycle chase is the centrepiece of the film.

A classic that the Christmas holiday would not be the same without.

8/10

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