Expertly directed and written with an infectious undercurrent of wry humor, this classic WWII POW escape yarn features an all-star cast of hardened Allied prisoners who the Germans have thrown together in a special "escape-proof" camp. Naturally, the first thing they set about doing is
planning their escape--not just any escape, but one so massive that thousands of German troops will be kept away from the front in the effort to track them down.
The prime instigators include "Big X" (Richard Attenborough), the British master planner; a Polish tunnel-digging expert (Charles Bronson); a forger of passports and papers (Donald Pleasence); and two Americans, "The Scrounger" (James Garner), in charge of assembling needed supplies, and Hilts
(Steve McQueen), "The Cooler King," who has his own ideas about how to get out. When those ideas fail, he uses a baseball and mitt to while away his days in solitary confinement. The prisoners ingeniously go about digging three tunnels, and though one of them is discovered, the big breakout still
takes place. The film follows the principals as they try to make their way to safety--some successfully, others meeting tragic ends, but all providing great excitement.
Based on a book detailing a real-life mass escape of Allied troops in 1942, producer-director John Sturges's film is involving throughout, due mainly to the excellent performances of its stellar cast, particularly McQueen in a breakthrough performance. Elmer Bernstein's exhilarating score is
perfectly suited to the film's nonstop tension. A hit with the critics and at the box office. THE GREAT ESCAPE is for many the great "escape" film.
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