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The Great Escape Review

[Longhorn Review] The Great Escape Review

Material Type: All, Books — Tags: Ally, camp, dig, Escape, Great, history, McQueen, Nazi, POW, Steve, WWII — Posted on November 30, 2010, 3:48 pm

By: John Sturgess

The film, The Great Escape, is a WWII movie centered on a group of Ally POWs that
are trying to break out of a Nazi prison camp in Germany. It is based on the true
story of the elaborate escape plans that the Ally soldiers came up with during the
years spent in the camps. Most of these soldiers are of the Royal Air Force with a
few Americans and various others. The Germans had moved all of the worst soldiers
and escape artists to Stalag Luft III.

Here the prisoners had an entire organization
set up to fool the Germans. Their objective was to aggravate the Germans and attempt
escape. Some soldiers were given the task of security, where they would use an
intelligent alert system to warn others of German patrols. Others were tasked with
making clothing and paperwork to use once out of the prison. Another job was the
digging--soldiers tunneled under ground and out of the camp. Their original plan was
to have 250 men escape through the tunnels in one night. Once out they would spread
out and try to flee the country using their forged documents. Only 76 were able to
escape through the tunnel before the escape attempt was discovered. 50 of the men
who had escaped and been recaptured were murdered. Only 3 men successfully escaped
Germany. All of the others were sent back to Stalag.

Throughout the movie there are
two characters that are especially memorable. Henley, AKA “the Scrounger”, played by
James Garner and Hilts, AKA “the Cooler King”, played by Steve McQueen. Both Henley
and Hilts are American and have an arrogant and rebellious attitude, although they
are fundamentally different. Henley is more of a sweet talker and con man, while
Hilts is sort of a prankster and troublemaker. Henley’s job is to “scrounge” up
items that everyone needs. He does this by bribing guards, picking pockets, and at
one point causing a distraction and stealing parts off of a German truck to use for
pick axes. Hilts has one of the most memorable motorcycle scenes of all time. Once
he escapes he steals a motorcycle and uniform from a German soldier and leads them
on a huge chase. Perhaps most memorable is when he jumps a barbwire fence and tries
to flee to safety. He is given the nickname “the Cooler King” because of his
frequent punishment of being sent to the cooler. The cooler is a solitary
confinement where Hilts spends much of his time throwing a baseball against the
wall. He is sent to the cooler many times for his escape attempts and disrespectful
behavior. Every time he goes, he is given a ball and glove from a friend and adds
humor as he is back in his cell, throwing his baseball to himself. Their comic
relief is very much welcomed after sad scenes of death and adds a much lighter tone
to the movie.

The Great Escape is an excellent film about the rebellious attitude
and enduring spirit of Ally POWs in WWII. The fact that it is based on a true story
makes the movie even better. Knowing that POWs gave the Germans a hard time and
tried until death to escape leaves the audience with a smile and a sense of
satisfaction and sympathy.

Reviewer: Blake Brown

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The Great Escape

[Longhorn Review] The Great Escape

Material Type: All, Books — Tags: Escape, pilots, prisoner, Steve McQueen, War, WWII — Posted on May 2, 2011, 3:38 pm

By: John Sturges

Masculinity in the United States is a big issue regarding the persona of millions
of men in the nation and this film can attest to that notion. This light hearted and
fun oriented war drama is far from the usual drama that we think of. It follows a
band of American and British Air Force officers who in the past have tried numerous
attempts to escape prison camps. As the German Luftwaffe Colonel von Luger stated “I
have all of the rotten eggs in one basket”, this predicament turns out to be in
favor of the allied prisoners due in part to all of the expertise that these guys
contribute to escaping the facility.

This particular film is full of well-known
actors including Richard Attenborough (old guy from Jurassic Park), Charles Bronson,
and the King of Cool Steve McQueen. The film is full of things to describe men
during the time period that this film debuted. Take all the clichés of what men do
such as patting a baseball with gloves, smoking cigarettes, etc and what you have is
this film. It essentially epitomizes the MAN or what every guy should be. They even
throw in lighthearted jokes regarding countries such as the scene in which the
Americans celebrate the 4Th of July. They march up to their British partners in
colonial clothing and straight up tell them “down with the British, and join us by
having a drink.”

Based on a true story, this film revolves around a plan of escaping
the German stronghold by digging a series of tunnels underneath the compound by the
use of ingenious techniques. Then using gathered expertise from the population of
the prisoners, they devise what to do after escaping the facility. Clichés include
Lt. Hendley (Garner), an American who can scrounge up anything and use his charisma
to befriend German officers, and Danny Velinski (Bronson) as the “ tunnel king” who
has a bravado and sensitive side to his character.

Even though the main plot of this
film was about digging tunnels and escaping an impossible Nazi German prison, it
very much centers on Steven McQueen and the character that he embodies. McQueen
essentially symbolizes the American way and is very much seen through the motorcycle
scenes where he cruises through the German countryside, taking bold approaches, and
using his wits to outsmart the Germans. Very much manly throughout the film, his
tough guy persona takes a turn towards the end of the film where he gets himself
into a tough situation. This reveals the true moment of the movie and becomes one of
the most memorable scenes in film history.

Reviewer: Daniel Lam

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