The Great Escape - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Great Escape Reviews

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½ July 19, 2016
More like the Mediocre Escape. Read the Wikipedia article on the REAL great escape - what actually happened is far more interesting than this stuffy, slow-paced farce with little suspense. Also, it really isn't that great of an escape considering the ending.
June 28, 2016
great classic war/action movie!! outstaning cast.
steve mcqueen is truly the "King of Cool"
June 2, 2016
Painfully dull. I think it's very overrated, and it's a long and uneventful movie to sit through. (First and only viewing - 6/1/2016)
Super Reviewer
May 22, 2016
One of the great epic films. The Great Escape starts off slowly but is so full of detail. The film builds to its ultimate finale, and has one of the greatest action sequences in history: Steve McQueen's motorcycle chase. I have lost count how many times i have seen this. Its rewatchability is unrivaled.
½ May 22, 2016
Intelligent, nail-biting, and nicely light, "The Great Escape" is a solid 172 minutes.
May 21, 2016
A captivating film of POW escaping under the noses of the Germans. While watching you become a part of the plan and escape. Lovely balance of humor, action and drama.
May 19, 2016
One of the great epic films. The Great Escape starts off slowly but is so full of detail. The film builds to its ultimate finale, and has one of the greatest action sequences in history: Steve McQueen's motorcycle chase. I have lost count how many times i have seen this. Its rewatchability is unrivaled.
½ May 3, 2016
Great cast. Great story. One of the best WW2 films ever.
March 24, 2016
If you've never seen a Steve McQueen movie before, this is a good one to start with. It was my first, and the only one I needed in order for me to be hooked. You somehow know it's going to be alright when he's on screen. Always ahead of his time with his colloquial demeanor, McQueen helps bridge the gap between old and new Hollywood, making the classics more accessible to younger audiences.

But The Great Escape is entertaining even when McQueen isn't present. The 1963 classic mixes suspense and levity brilliantly as it follows a group of allied prisoners in a German camp attempting their biggest escape yet during World War II.

The Great Escape is plot buildup at its finest. Writer-director, John Sturges, has an impeccable sense of narrative. From start to finish its tone never wavers. And even with its juggernaut of a runtime clocking in at nearly 3 hours, you're never checking your watch.

Although in this day and age it helps to know the history--seeing as World War II was still fairly fresh in everyone's minds back in 1963. But setting aside, you can still appreciate the general storyline. Even a younger audience should be able to follow along easily and still enjoy this movie's timely humor.

Elmer Bernstein's score helps to drive this film with strong motifs. It echoes The Bridge on the River Kwai, but has a feel all of its own.

The Great Escape is a phenomenal film. It's consistent and thoroughly engaging, and the type of movie that just puts a smile on your face. With a little help from McQueen, it holds up very well. He's at his best here, like always. And the rest of the cast is so strong that this film is great even when he's absent--he's just the cherry on top.

Twizard Rating: 100
March 23, 2016
I love the characters in this film, and the way they so nonchalantly start looking for methods of escape within minutes of landing in the prison. The entire film feels like a high quality heist movie. The team is assembled, we get to find out who is going to do what, and then we slowly see the plan executed. I have so much fun with this style of film, and it is made even better when you care about the people involved. The Great Escape went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to those people because within less than 30 minutes of film I felt like I knew and connected with at least twelve different characters (amazing considering most films nowadays struggle to even get you to care about ONE.) I was a little disappointed with the somewhat mundane nature of the actual plan because, aside from the size of the escape, it was the same as many other escapes they had attempted in the past. I guess modern Hollywood has conditioned me to expect something more intricate and complex with multiple moving parts. But I have to give additional respect to the film despite this plan, because they were telling a true story which can make even the mundane more exciting. I quite enjoyed the entire film, but I did have one big problem which might be a more personal expectation issue but it kept me from completely falling in love with the movie.

Big-time spoilers: The title set me up with false hope that this was going to be a big awesome happy ending. To be clear, I know this is based on a true story, so I'm not expecting they should change history. I just kept getting hit by disappointment and sadness that I never expected when the film began. First I have the big-time letdown when less than half of the planned number of prisoners actually make it out of the compound. So that was part one of my sadness. Then the even bigger letdown that almost every single escapee is caught and most of them are slaughtered. It was just such a downer ending to what felt like such an uplifting film. I almost expected that the movie was about to continue with an even bigger escape that was actually successful, sadly it was not meant to be. I want to make a point of saying I understand, in a way, they were completely successful because they stymied the German forces and made them devote way too many resources to recovering those who escaped. But it doesn't FEEL like a win when so many characters that you grew to love get unceremoniously executed.
March 20, 2016
I'll admit the runtime intimidated me at first, but literally a few minutes into it I knew it was going to be absolutely brilliant.
March 19, 2016
This is a classic film but Hogan's Heroes is more realistic. I prefer The Dirty Dozen.
Super Reviewer
March 14, 2016
There's some WW2 movies that go for the point of view of 1) some important job that HAS to be done, and/or (it could be both) there's the ones that go for 2) the horror of war. And then there's what I call the "I remember World War 2" films wherein the war is seen through the subtle patina of nostalgia. "Those were the good old days!" This film is solidly in the second camp, as if two hours into the 20 year high school reunion some slightly inebriated few begin to wax teary-eyed about the day of the big game oh those many years ago. One very nearly roots for the bad guys.
March 7, 2016
It's a great film about an escape. I literally needn't tell you any more.
February 21, 2016
People might say this is Steve McQueen's movie, but would have to disagree, this is an ensemble piece, with great performances across the board from each and every single one of the cast members. Each caracter is unique and memorable, John Sturges does one hell of a job directing such a massive scaled movie, but pulls it off like it's nothing.
The story is so well written (based off of Paul Brickhill's book) it keeps you gripped to your seat from the moment it begins to the second it ends. The Great Escape has a perfect 3 part movie structure: everyone getting put into the prison, and getting acquainted with each other. Planning and executing the unbelievable escape. Witnessing the aftermath of each of the escapees. It's absolutely astonishing to know this movie is based off of real historic events, it seems so unbelievable at some points, but i've read its impeccably accuracy which makes this movie even more fascinating. (even though it allready was)

All in all, this is a thrilling movie from start to finish, a big recommendation to each and every single film lover.

The Great Escape is the greatest prison escape movie every put to the silver screen.
February 15, 2016
Takes awhile to build up, but once it does, it pretty much grabs ya 'til the end.
January 28, 2016
With a massive ensemble cast and a notorious legacy of references in popular culture, The Great Escape sounded like an utter war classic.

The Great Escape is a brilliant story. Based on the account of writer Paul Brickhill, it is a historical moment war history where prisoners took a notorious stand against German oppressors. The titular escape is one which required very extensive planning with intricate dedication to achieve, and John Sturges makes an effort to cover this in every detail. Of course there is no way to capture every last detail within a mere 165 minutes, but John Sturges uses the same dedication to detail that his characters do and ensures that his film is written with precision. The story makes a strong effort to capture every little contribution put towards structuring the escape without dragging itself on in the process. The pace is sensible enough to not rush itself, but it doesn't succumb to boredom either because there is always something happening.
Running at nearly three hours, it would be very easy for The Great Escape to end up dragging on. Structured in a similar manner as The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Great Escape spends its first two hours building up to its titular climax and the remaining 45 minutes unleashing it. There are surely times when things take a significant drop in pace, but the film is kept alive by the fact that the atmosphere is rich and the characters are entertaining.
The focus of The Great Escape is very much on the larger scale of events, and since there are so many characters and important stars to the film, it is a challenge to evenly focus on everyone. Most of the film is focused on escape itself, reducing the majority of the characters to a collection of different soldiers whose individuality largely comes from the star power of the actors portraying them. However, this does not neglect the human tragedy of the story. Although it is rather sporadic amid the spectacle, there are some powerful moments that remind us of the individuals who put together the escape and the challenges they faced. Even though The Great Escape has to take certain liberties with facts and characters so that the film can offer more drama and star power, there is no denying that what The Great Escape captures is nothing short of brilliant. It is a powerful tale of men working as a team for each other, for themselves and for country which reminds us of the extensive challenges faced in the war outside of combat. The Great Escape is very well scripted and directed with tenacity, leaving it rich in atmosphere as well as style.
Thanks to the work of Elmer Bernstein's musical score, the mood is always reinforced. His work is a masterpiece with a true classical feeling to it. Elmer Bernstein opens the film with the rather lighthearted theme song to the film, an iconic piece of music which has a mix between gleeful energy and a military march. This is immediately followed by a more dark and intense theme intended to capture the feeling of prison confinement. From there, the music manages to always assists the mood of the story in developing along with its plot dynamics. Since the music establishes the mood of the film, there is always an eerie feeling when things are silent. During these moments, the sound effects are left to supplement the music and do an effective job of keeping things intense.
The visual experience of The Great Escape is absolutely brilliant. Cleverly making use of its relatively small budget, John Sturges proves once again that he has a keen eye for spectacle imagery. The Great Escape spends the majority of its film in a singular location with a strong reconstruction of the Stalag Luft III, capturing a confined feeling by shooting mostly inside the compound. It gets particularly notable during the scenes depicting the tunnel digging as there are intricate angles used to capture a sense of claustrophobia. When the film reaches its escape, the scale becomes much larger and the cinematography captures some brilliant backdrops. The on-location scenery is remarkable and rich with colour, decorated with production designs and costumes which easily capture the timeframe of WWII. And since the film covers a lot of ground, there is a large scope of versatile scenery to enjoy.
The action is also impressive. Since The Great Escape is not a war film about the battle, it does not offer a conventional style of action. There are some action moments in the climax, but they are not shootouts and explosions. They are depictions of the characters attempting to successfully make an escape, and the more exhilarating examples of this include James Garner and Donald Pleasence on an aviation journey and Steve McQueen's iconic motorcycle chase sequence. The select amount of action in The Great Escape is reserved for the climax and proves a satisfactory conclusion for the feature even though it is not on the scale of a typical war film.
And since the many characters in The Great Escape are portrayed by a large number of stars, the limitations on character exploration are elevated by the status of the actors.
Steve McQueen is a perfectly solid lead. With proud masculine charisma, Steve McQueen actively has fun in the role while taking it very seriously. Playing at Virgil Hilts' desire to taunt the enemy with his escape talents, Steve McQueen uses a lighthearted and likable spirit for most of the film while pulling it back for a focus on silent tension during the more richly atmospheric moments of the film. His interactions with the cast just rolls along with energetic development of the narrative while his dedication to performing his own stunts yields exceptional motorcycle stunts. Steve McQueen is a brilliant lead for The Great Escape.
James Garner is also a great addition to the cast. James Garner has a very strong edge of sophistication to him. With the spirit of a leader he manages to capture the essence of a soldier while his interactions with the surrounding cast members can range from intense to gentle, oscillating between different types of drama with organic flow. His work is brilliant, and his chemistry with Donald Pleasence is particularly deserving of praise for the soft spirit of genuine care for he displays for his brother in war, effectively balancing dramatic material on all different scales without hesitation whenever the story calls for it.
Richard Attenborough delivers one of his best acting performances in The Great Escape. Deep in the roots of his character and never stepping out, Richard Attenborough is always on guard for whatever happens. As the leader of the escape, Richard Attenborough works to develop his tension along with the film itself while keeping audiences informed of events with an intelligent and tenacious grip over the dialogue and a skill for delivering it with dramatic spirit. Richard Attenborough truly delivers a rich performance in The Great Escape and carries an impressive sense of leadership which reflects his real-life skill as a respectable film director.
Charles Bronson is given one of the most human characters in the story. Despite his hard edge and his legacy for portraying tough guys, Charles Bronson diverts his stereotypical status into a character who carries his iconic strengths yet is not bereft of humane vulnerability. Charles Bronson carries a likable attitude to him which brings in some comedic moments but he also grasps a lot of the best low-key dramatic sequences in the film enhanced by his chemistry with John Leyton, meaning that The Great Escape offers one of Charles Bronson's greatest performances from his heyday, even in the face of such a talented ensemble.
In a similar veign, James Coburn carries an intrinsic tough guy status about him but doesn't pursue a mundane path. Due to his hearty tone of voice and tall stature, James Coburn which reflects a young John Huston. He blends in with the crowd easily due to a sensibly restrained performance.
Gordon Jackson has a Charlton Heston -type look about him and the same charming smile that comes with it, although his hard edge is not as gritty and therefore he has greater depth to him. Donald Pleasence has a classy charm to him as well as a feeling of vulnerability, with the latter also being captured by Angus Lennie and John Leyton. Nigel Stock also carries a handsome charm.

So The Great Escape is an extensive war classic which never loses tension for a second due to its consistently moving narrative and brilliant script coupled with a brilliant cast, an unforgettable musical score and John Sturges' keen eye for magnificent imagery.
December 24, 2015
The Great Escape is one of those films that you could watch time and time again and still love even more with each viewing. Imagine a movie where you would put all the greatest movie stars of their Era in. That's exactly what they did here! The Great Escape is, in my mind, the greatest War movie of all Time. Add to the stellar cast, a score by Legendary Hollywood composer Elmer Bernstein and there you have one of the greatest War movie themes of all Time. A theme with a tune so catchy, so memorable that you might find yourself humming and whistling it as you go through your day. The Great Escape is basically the story of POW during War time in their Nazi detention camp. And what are, not just POW but the best POW, up to in their enemy detention camp? They plan their escape. An escape so ingenious that it involves digging three tunnels at the same time underneath and through their camp to the wood outside. In the main role we have Hollywood Legend, Steve Mc Queen as Lieutenant Virgil Hilts, a hot shot American pilot who has only one idea in his head, Escaping! One of the most interesting scene for me was at the end, when Hilts, recaptured again, is about to be put back in his cell inside the cooler. There you have a German guard ready to put our hero, who incidentally is the personification of the perfect Aryan, blue eyed and blond hairs, into his cell. As the guard closes the door and walks away from Hilts' cell, he hears the noise of Hilts' baseball bouncing off the walls, back and forth into Hilts' baseball glove. He pauses for instant as if to ponder whether what he is doing to the embodiment of the perfect German specimen is wrong. He lowers his head, then walks away with his head held down as if to convey that he realizes that what he is doing is wrong and he could never break Hilts' strong spirit. I highly recommend this all time Classic for all, a masterpiece!
½ December 10, 2015
The Great Escape was a movie that I used to watch with my dad when I was younger, not fully understanding the full scope of what was actually happening I just knew that it was a lot of fun to watch. I just knew that these were a bunch of guys held as prisoners and they are planning to literally make their great escape. This is a truly fun and exciting movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat as they execute their elaborate plan to escape this prison camp by digging a tunnel that leads to freedom. Another classic old school Hollywood movie based on the events during World War 2.
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