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[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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