A memorable tribute: ‘The Great Escape’

Sarah Wandor
Movie Critic Columnist

As I was searching for a movie to critique, a fellow student requested that I review this film even though it is an older movie. “The Great Escape” (1963) is based off of a true story about a group of allied prisoners of war during WWII, who devise a plan to escape a Nazi prison camp and to draw Nazi forces away from battle to search for them. They create a daring plan for 200 men to escape through a tunnel in just one night.

Despite its age, I was surprised it didn’t fall into the usual old movie tropes — overdramatic to the point of fakeness being one of them. Instead, it was simple and didn’t seem to feel the need to try to be more exciting. The movie let the story carry its own weight, if you will, which served it well since there is already much tension in the story anyway.

The film also didn’t overload or confuse people with information. There weren’t too many things happening at once.

It didn’t repeat many of the same situations but progressed through the story of showing just how complicated the POWs escape soon turned out to be and the solutions they came up with along the way. It kept the tension and energy up throughout the film and made it engaging.

The personal struggles of the men served to increase the tension of the movie, and the film didn’t make the mistake of having them be perfect. They each struggled with despair and the strong desire to just get out of prison. It showed how desperate their situation was and how high the stakes were.

The film portrayed the characters as human. They were not perfected, which is shown multiple times throughout the movie. Some wrestled with claustrophobia going through the tunnel; others lost hope in their situation or didn’t want to be a team player, instead focusing on getting themselves to the end.

Each of their struggles not only serves to allow the audience to relate to them and draw them in, but it also serves to show how important the bond the men built would become. They had to encourage each other and prevent each other from escaping, sometimes with violence.

By including these elements in the film, the creators allowed the characters to be real and human. The story is made all the more authentic, breathing life to simple words on a page.

I was also surprised by the actors’ performances. There were layers to their performance to match the layers of tension on their situation and what was going through their minds. They had to balance rebellious spiteful natures as well as the despair that was starting to creep into their minds.

That whirlwind of emotions could be seen on their faces as they went about their jobs, working towards escape. It wasn’t overdone but they did well in showing they were trying their hardest to hold it together until they got out or just to keep their pride.

Few old movies have the level of subtlety “The Great Escape” has. It lets the story tell itself without adding useless, overdramatic nonsense. It also serves as a tribute to the men who dared to plan and execute the complex escape. The great escape will not easily be forgotten.