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.