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Still shot from the movie: The Great Escape.

The Great Escape

Detained in a German Prisoner of war camp during WW II, officers of the allied forces develop an elaborate escape plan. Based on a true story, the movie follows their efforts, with a minimal amount of violence depicted.

Overall Grade: B+
Violence: C+
Sexual Content: A
Language: B+
Drugs/Alcohol: C
Release Date: 04 Jul 1963
Run Time: 172
MPAA Rating: Not Rated


In-Depth Review

What would you do with various prisoners of war who were determined to get away? In the movie The Great Escape, German officials faced with this dilemma decide to put all their "rotten eggs" in one basket: A brand new detention camp equipped with the best security measures available.

When the worst offenders arrive, the peace-seeking Kommandant (Hannes Messemer) urges the R.A.F. captives to sit out the remainder of the war with a minimal amount of disturbance. But his advice is met with the reminder that a captured officer's sworn duty is to attempt escape or do anything else which will keep the enemy busy and thereby distracted from their efforts at the front.

The cat and mouse game begins immediately, and just as quickly, Captain Hilts (Steve McQueen) and Flying Officer Ives (Angus Lennie) find themselves in the solitary confinement of the "Cooler." Meanwhile, serious plans start as soon as Squadron Leader Roger Bartlett (Richard Attenborough) is transferred in. "Big X", as he is known to his fellows, soon has the whole camp tunneling under their new digs, with a goal of breaking out 250 prisoners.

The elaborate plot includes not only an escape route, but also the creation of forged passports and civilian clothing. Keeping all this industry (and the excavated dirt) from being detected creates a great deal of tension, yet the film doesn't end there. When the convicts trade the barbwire enclosed camp for the barbwire enclosed country, the real suspense begins.

Based on a true story and starring some of the 1960's best-known actors, perhaps the only criticism of this movie would be the understated gravity of the situation. Initially, the prisoners' rebellious attitudes and escape attempts are reminiscent of schoolboys playing pranks. The portrayals become more realistic as the heroes face the risks associated with crossing the border. For families, the minimal violent depictions are likely an advantage, making the enthralling tale of The Great Escape a great WWII discussion starter.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

Overall: B+

Detained in a German Prisoner of war camp during WW II, officers of the allied forces develop an elaborate escape plan. Based on a true story, the movie follows their efforts, with a minimal amount of violence depicted.

Violence: C+

Armed soldiers are seen throughout the film; they are also shown threatening and shooting prisoners. Brawls and fights are engaged in frequently. Characters hiding in tree branches are almost stabbed by a pitchfork. Characters threatened by machinegun fire: depiction of a man being shot. Gestapo officers are depicted; their acts of torture are implied, but never depicted. On two occasions, a man nearly suffocates in a tunnel cave-in. Bunk bed collapses under a man’s weight. Men injured or killed when a motorbike runs into a trip wire, and in a crash. Several gunfights occur, and characters are shown being shot. Men are imprisoned in a camp, an isolation cell, and a cellar. Motorbike chase with reckless driving is depicted. Plane crashes and catches fire. Blood is shown on injured characters. Man is tangled in barbwire. On two occasions, men are executed with a machine gun.

Sexual Content: A

Bare chest of a showering man is seen.

Language: B+

At least: 12 mild profanities and 3 terms of Deity used as expletives, and the use of derogatory names for the enemy.

Alcohol / Drug Use: C

Various characters smoke throughout the film. Cigarettes are used as bribes. An extended scene portrays the making and drinking of moonshine (alcohol) with it’s associated inebriating effects..

Miscellaneous Concerns:.

Many of the characters display a rebellious attitude. Many main characters engage in acts of theft, blackmail and deception to assist their escape effort. A character’s desire for revenge is mentioned, but never elaborated upon.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

As the men make plans for the escape, they also question the possible costs. Do you think the disruption they created for the enemy was worth the price they paid?

What elements of true friendship did you see illustrated by the characters of Hendley “The Scrounger” (James Garner) and Blythe “The Forger” (Donald Pleasence)? What personal risks would you be willing to take in order to help someone else?

Video alternatives

For another family friendly war classic, try The Bridge on the River Kwai. The movie Chicken Run plays homage to The Great Escape in many of its elements (especially in the coop’s design).

Home Video Notes

Home Video Notes: The Great Escape

Release Date:  7 May 2013

The Great Escape releases to home video in Blu-ray with the following bonus materials:

- Audio Commentary by Director John Sturges, Cast & Crew

- Original Theatrical Trailer

- Bringing Fact to Fiction

- Preparations for Freedom

- The Flight to Freedom

- A Standing Ovation

- The Untold Story

- The Untold Story – Additional Interviews

- A Real Virgil Hilts: A Man Called Jones

- Return to The Great Escape

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About the Reviewer: Donna Gustafson

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