Had something else planned, but fuck it, lets get into this
Ok, so I think The Great Escape holds up because you have two movies that alternate here:
- A serious as shit 1960s-era hollywood drama about the largest single escape attempt from a German PoW camp in WWII.
- A proto-Inglorious Basterds in which Steve McQueen just beats the shit out of the Germans with being a fucking badass.
Think about it. The movie has these really serious scenes whenever Steve McQueen is in the fucking hole. At those points, its almost like a procedural. Fuckin John Hammond plotting the specifics of building tunnels out, getting clothes that will fit in with the German citizens, fake documents, etc. Process and procedure.
Then here comes Steve fuckin McQueen
And it totally works. It doesn’t like…”take the piss” out of the British’s attempts to get out. Just lets off the pressure a bit so you aren’t filled with anxiety the whole fucking time.
But really, it’s all about the ending.
You have all these British RAF officers trying to find their way out and its tense as shit. So you have scenes like this…
Fuckin John Hammond gets so close to escaping. Weeks and weeks of planning. Getting the correct documents. The right look. Hell, his character knows both French and German.
A ton of the running time of the film is dedicated to this. They even set up this bit once earlier in the film. And, so when you have this payoff, it really impacts. And its great.
And then you fuckin have Steve McQueen
Fuckin defeating the Nazi’s single handedly with American knuckleheaded-ness and plot armor.
Just fuck it. Im going to beef it all the way to Switzerland on this fucking motorcycle. And I would have got it if I could have jumped this fucking GIANT FENCE OF BARBED WIRE.
It totally does deflate the ending though. You have 50 of these people shot dead by the Gestapo, and the movie ends with fuckin Steve McQueen coming back in like a champion. Everyone has their head hanged in defeat, but fuckin Steve McQueen comes in strutting.
Does it work?
Well….I would argue its less about it working and more about it being an oddity. Like it is an enjoyable watch. I am not sure it is cohesive as one thematic masterpiece. Its just a good movie that has fuckin Steve McQueen show up out of NOWHERE.
You just have to walk in knowing that. You are going in for an odd duck. Accept it and you will have a good time.
That is all.