The Great Escape – A Movie Review

The Great Escape came out in 1963.  It’s based on an actual World War II large scale escape by British Commonwealth soldiers from a German POW camp during World War II.  Some American actors were added in to increase the interest for American audiences but for the most part the details of the story are true.

There’s an all-star cast including Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson and James Coburn.  On the British side there’s Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasence and a bunch of Brits I never heard of.

The plan is to build a tunnel out of the camp and provide clothes and identification papers for 250 men to scatter over the countryside and escape out of Germany.  Each of the men has a particular skill; tunnellers, scroungers of supplies, document forgers, tailors, etc.  The ingenuity they use to perform this seemingly impossible series of operations is remarkable.  They begin building three tunnels (Tom, Dick and Harry) and accumulating their supplies.  There are setbacks and delays.  The first tunnel is discovered and one of the men despairs and is shot down rushing the fence in broad daylight.  Stress builds up and some of the men crack.  Finally, the escape is run and disaster occurs.  Seventy-six men get out of the camp and we follow them as they attempt the escape from Germany.  Some make it, some are caught and some are killed.

It is an amazing story.  Even if it were just fiction it would be entertaining.  But knowing it actually happened is mind-boggling.  And the movie is well done.  The plot and dialog are good and sometimes quite compelling.  The actors are sympathetic characters and even some of the Germans come across as interesting humans.

If you like war stories and especially if you like history this is a movie you might want to see.  Highly recommended.

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War Pig
War Pig
2 months ago

Loved how Steve McQueen did all his own motorcycle scenes and stunts and the “Nazi” stunt men could not keep up.   Remarkable acting on all sides. I had a friend who said they must have faked it about documents, clothes, etc. I said no, it is based on an actual escape. I worked in the US prison system for a year or so and I can tell you criminals are ingenious. One made a crossbow out of paper, glue, a pair of boxer shorts and a razor blade and killed another inmate who passed by his cell by hitting… Read more »

2 months ago
Reply to  War Pig

British Intelligence aided the POWs by smuggling in materials in specially tagged Monopoly games and other “Recreation Supplies”. The boards were hollowed out to contain currency, ID and travel permit templates, miniature compasses, and maps printed on silk cloth.

War Pig
War Pig
2 months ago
Reply to  photog

Actually, the Luftwaffe ran the camps and they were rather gentlemanly for the period. After all, we held a lot of Nazi prisoners and tit-for-tat applied. Many German POWs decided to move to the US and UK after their kind treatment. Which is why I got so pizzed off over Abu Ghraib. One incident ruined over 50 years of reputation. All the Iraqi prisoners we took in Desert Storm who were well treated, all of it gone in a puff of smoke.   That’s why I recommended a courts-martial for the prison commander and several others in a position of… Read more »

2 months ago

One of my all time favorites. You can’t miss the dry humor either.
McQueen and the German commandant trading the single line “Cooler” is great!

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