Wednesday, 11 June 2014
June 2014 Blindspot Challenge: The Great Escape
Back when I was making the initial transfer from middle to high school I became a big fan of the 1960's TV series Hogan's Heroes. I had a few seasons on DVD and I'd watch the crazy shenanigans of Colonel Hogan as the Nazis would always have some new weapon or there would be some person who has to escape or some other problem that he and his men would have to take care of.
Naturally, when I decided to start my 2014 Blindspot challenge with the 1963 classic The Great Escape I could see how much that show drew from it. The image of the prison camp, the extended tunnels, threatening uncooperative prisoners with "The Cooler", throwing the baseball around, and the one guard who is actually a nice guy that just got pulled into the war against his will were all components of this film that Hogan's Heroes would later pick up and exaggerate beyond recognition.
During World War II, a group of really troublesome prisoners of war are brought to a brand new camp, specifically designed to hold them and prevent any chance of escape. The commandant hopes that they will co-operate but the prisoners stubbornly take every potential opportunity to try and get out without success. That is until they devise an elaborate plan to sneak out 250 men.
Months of work follow as the prisoners make the necessary preparations for their escape; digging tunnels, forging papers, learning enough German and French to be able to get by, tailoring convincing disguises, gathering information about the surrounding environment, and trying to keep any of the guards from finding out; before they can begin making their great escape in the hopes of causing a massive amount when the Nazis try to recapture them.
The one issue that may be present with this film is that there are a lot of characters and it can be easy to loose track of some of the supporting roles, but fortunately most of the cast has a distinct enough appearance to be easy to identify, and all of them have their own little quirks and personalities. After a while you really do start to connect with them.
The movie does take its time to get going but still manages to be very compelling. It may be almost three hours long but that running time is used to its full advantage, letting you experience each and every detail of preparation: every step in digging the tunnels, every plan they devise for once they get out, every problem that presents itself, every creative solution the prisoners improvise to those problems. By the time our heroes are finally ready to make the Great Escape, you're genuinely rooting for them and want to see them make it, and it becomes quite the tear-jerker for the ones that don't.
The Great Escape is a great film and definitely worth the time. If you're looking for a compelling war film with great characters, an excellent cast, and a lot of emotion, this is almost certainly a film for you. You won't regret it. The Great Escape is a great experience.