I had put off watching Sergio Leone’s final western for many many years, believing it to be a lesser film in the director’s canon, but in fact it’s an incredibly dense and weighty affair, buoyed up by a pair of delightfully larger-than-life performances. Both Rod Steiger and James Coburn impress, not only with their Mexican and Irish accents, but in the versatility of their characters and the nuanced interplay of two reluctant partners propelled forward by their camaraderie and passion for rebellion. Beautifully shot, with an eccentric yet intoxicating Morricone score, this is definitely a film I will enjoy revisiting in the future.
What more can be said about The Great Escape, arguably one of the best and certainly one of the most popular World War II films? Seeing this again on the big screen was a reminder of everything that makes this film a classic, from Elmer Bernstein’s familiar, often referenced and richly varied score, through the excellent cinematography and editing, to the sharp, memorable performances from Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn, David McCallum, Gordon Jackson and co.
Despite weighing in at 172 minutes, The Great Escape keeps a steady pace that will not tire contemporary audiences. An outstanding film with a moving mix of humour, guts and tragedy, played in a way that makes it accessible to a vast range of film lovers.