Interesting idea: Allied POWs in WW2 get to play a soccer (/football...) match against the Germans. As a sub-plot, the soccer match is going to be used as a means to escape.
Escape-from-POW Camp movies are not a novel idea. However, the Allies vs Germans soccer match adds quite an original twist to the concept.
Plot is OK, but not entirely waterproof and does feel quite contrived at times. The good guys vs bad guys stereotypes are laid on rather thick, though Max von Sydow's character adds a bit of balance.
Performances are varied. Many of the actors are actually soccer stars (eg Pele, Bobby Moore - basically the entire Allied team except for Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone) so not there for their acting abilities (except in the penalty area...).
Caine gives a solid performance in the lead role. Stallone is his usual monosyllabic, one-dimensional self. The soccer players probably give better performances than him...
So, overall, has a trite and hammy feel to it. Nowhere near John Huston's best works as a director. However, flows well, never loses momentum and is quite entertaining.
Although the concept of a soccer match against POW soldiers and a prison escape sounds really interesting, Escape to Victory moves at a very slow pace over the course of its 117 minute running time and isn't nearly as exciting as it should be. The problem is that the film spends too much time building up to the final soccer match as well as the intended escape and doesn't really fit all that much interesting in over the course of its approximately 85 minute buildup. Escape to Victory has an interesting premise, but its execution is burdened by slow movement and a lack of feeling that comes with the film. Though it should be intense and interesting, I didn't honestly feel much from Escape to Victory. It didn't feel like it captured the true horrors of the war and its drama lacked a personal touch which means that it wasn't that much of a compelling film either. It is easy to find the film compelling as it is a tale of standing up against the Nazi's and therefore against evil and corrupt people in power, but it isn't too easy to truly feel sympathy for the characters as they are mostly just a lot of soldiers who don't honestly seem to be in any real danger even though as POW camp members they are constantly at risk of execution. I guess what I'm saying is that Escape to Victory isn't one of director John Huston's most meaningful and thoughtful films but rather is a half-hearted effort which isn't as inspiring as it should have been and simply follows a conventional style.
The cinematography in Escape to Victory was a little rough. It constantly took on conventional angles which felt a little too zoomed in for their own good. Although the scenery of the film is strong and good for making the film more believable, it is captured with a very rough camera quality and cinematography techniques which do not break any new ground and simply zoom in on things too much, almost like some kind of new report. Escape to Victory has the visual appeal of news coverage in terms of technical qualities, and this really doesn't benefit it, nor does it make it feel more genuine or compelling in any manner. It doesn't even truly capture the big scale of what is actually going on, nor does it really glamourise the final soccer match scene due to the same reasons. The musical score is the only really strong technical quality, and it isn't capitalised on much when it could have been used which has a lot of random dramatic sequences being essentially empty of any feeling. Frankly, Escape to Victory lacks the depth of a character based film, the heart of a true sports film or the scale of a war film and makes it a simply failure in all three areas.
Escape to Victory has a really interesting story to it because of the fact that it uses as WWII Prisoner of War setting as a medium for its sports story against corruption, but it deserves better treatment than director John Huston gives it. It sounds like a combination of The Great Escape and The Longest Yard on the surface but it is just really dull, slow and over long as a final product, and the victory of the film isn't all that easy to feel except for the most patriotic viewers and biggest fans of association football. As a person not too familiar with it, I really couldn't find all that much appeal in Escape to Victory, and the fact that it attempted to balance many themes without truly establishing a single one correctly rendered it an inconsistent and scattered film which just doesn't have enough consistent entertainment value
Escape from Victory is simply a boring film and isn't a visual experience like a good sports or war film truly should be which means that it doesn't have the strength of numerous films of the same genre and concept. The final soccer match scene is fairly entertaining though, and its themes are good. And all in all, the cast make a good effort to ensure that the intended effect of Escape to Victory is felt in the end.
As expected, Michael Caine is a great heroic lead in Escape to Victory simply because of his natural heroism and the fact that he is a very likable lead, as well as the fact that he makes for an inspiring hero and shares a tense and effective chemistry with Sylvester Stallone at the right times. Michael Caine gives Escape to Victory a touch of the patriotic edge that it really needs, and although it doesn't precisely succeed as much as it wants to, Michael Caine's performance is no problem and proves to be one of the most positive aspects of the film.
Sylvester Stallone's performance is a rather routine effort, but Escape to Victory benefits from his genial presence and the fact that he serves as the symbol of America's patriotism. Sylvester Stallone creates a natural strong presence for Escape to Victory simply because of who he is and how strong he is. His escape scene feels genuine because of how he makes the atmosphere of the story feel realistic, so he is a strong addition to the cast in Escape to Victory.
Max Von Sydow is also naturally strong as a villain, and the presence of Pele as a Soccer hero is awesome because of his awesome heroism as a soccer player.
So despite Escape to Victory having a lot of potential due to the nature of its story and the fact that it combines sporting heroism with the concept of prison escape, it ends up too slow, dull and weak in how it scripts itself to truly soar and be actually heroic and inspiring.