The Guns of Navarone Reviews
At one point, Gregory Peck refers to David Niven as "son." I've no doubt this was in the script. However, I further have no doubt that the line was written before the movie was cast. I looked it up, you see, because it was so jarring. This is in part because David Niven's career is older by about ten years; doubtless the war had some influence somewhere. More to the point, though, David Niven is six years older than Gregory Peck. He was fifty-one when the movie was made. Now, the Officer is often, in war movies, an older man, unless the point is how green he is. It's one of the Great War Movie Traditions, and we all just go along with it. However, I can't really do that here, because I can't believe David Niven in the character he plays. And since he was one of two characters I really knew much about, that was a problem.
There were, according to the movie, guns on the Greek island of Navarone which were a serious problem when the Allies wanted to liberate the country. There were also other places in that chunk of sea which were important to the Allies, but I don't know how much the guns--the kind on tracks so that, when they recoil, you can get them back in place--had to do with that. Anyway, a group of British officers are sent by high command to take out the guns so the island can be liberated. So Gregory Peck led a little band of men, although there was a major who was played by Anthony Quayle and supposed to be in charge, on a strike mission designed to get to Navarone, get into the bunker, and destroy the guns. Naturally, the German army is rather opposed to the idea.
I didn't really follow most of what was going on, I must admit. It's not that it's a war movie, or anyway not just that it's a war movie. It's that the suggestion at the beginning that they just load up a plane with dynamite and fly it into the cave is about as sensible as what actually ends up happening. There is this idea that we need to see movies about a Plucky Band of Outsiders taking on the whole German army and succeeding even when it's obvious they ought to have been shot and killed in the first five minutes. And while there are partisans in whatever country the movie is set in, even unto Germany itself, the partisans are never capable of much of anything. I don't even just mean that they can't help, though they really don't seem able to here. I mean that the people have to be sent in at all. Outsiders have to go in and do it for them. I think this is the same philosophy as the one in which we need an American to be in the Plucky Band of Outsiders if we Americans are to know which side we're rooting for.
It's also worth noting that this is a [i]long[/i] movie. It's over two and a half hours long. Most of it is taken up in action sequences and heated dialogue. Apparently, it's intended to be anti-war, but I don't see anything which sets it up as such. Nobody's very happy to be there, and David Niven gets a long speech about how the war is someone else's problem and he's just gotten caught up in it. The Greek peasants aren't exactly treated kindly by the Germans. I think maybe if we spent less time on gunfights and more on the problems of the guy who thinks war is glory, we might ourselves see that it isn't. I mean, okay; it's hard to go far wrong fighting Nazis, but maybe that's the problem. If you're going to make a an anti-war movie, World War II is not your prime war of choice. It's too established that the Allies really did have to fight back, and it's too easy to show Nazi atrocities.
Besides which it was done better that year in the much talkier [i]Judgment at Nuremberg[/i]. Which beat it for Adapted Screenplay, and rightfully so. The fact is, people think of this as an action movie, and action movies just go to demonstrate Truffaut's assertion that it is impossible to make an anti-war film. Yes, people die in this movie. Yes, one person dies in such a stupid way that I really don't see the point from a story perspective. Yes, one character is shown to have been so overwhelmed by despair that collaboration seems the only way out, even when another option presents itself. Yes, David Niven gets his lengthy speeches and his snide comments about Gregory Peck's duty to his men since he took his commission. It kind of makes me wonder what David Niven is doing there in the first place; I missed that bit. But anti-war? No, I don't see it at all.
This is a real-edge-of-your-seat film, and most definitely a "manly man" type of movie. It wastes very little time on romance and other diversions, sticking to the action and the story while throwing a few unexpected twists and turns in along the way.
A fine ensemble cast, which includes Anthony Quinn, James Darren, Richard Harris and David Niven, among others, really raises the bar.
A real edge-of-your-seat film, and definitely a "manly man" movie, this one sticks to the story and the action with very little in the way of any romantic diversions. Top-notch acting from the fine ensemble cast, which also includes Anthony Quinn, James Darren and David Niven, among others.
The only flaw in the plot is the fact that it is glaringly obvious that their group has a traitor early on in the film, a fact which they seem to ignore until much later on, when it is almost too late. Still, it's a fine story and it takes a number of unexpected turns, while keeping the suspense revved up all the way through.