Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton - an actor that definitely grows on me over the course of the movie, and plenty of other minor personalities appear in this post-seventies War-movie Nazi-time classic. I started watching it with a buddy years ago, but we never finished it due to the 'incredibly long and boring introductory phase'. According to him. Personally I'm a very patient movie watcher, or maybe I just had an easier time immersing myself in the plot... either way, I recently remembered this title and gave it a second shot, and it wasn't bad! It was long, yet the screen time wasn't wasted on anything but the essentials, and overall it feels like the extra time made the story all the more compelling.
The pace isn't as fast as with modern movies, but though the characters take their time escaping, even when it would seem the enemies are right on their heals, it's also clear that they're aware of this - working maybe not as fast as possible but as carefully as possible so that they actually may escape. Like soldiers should.
The final chase scene was the real highlight of the movie, and after a long and suspenseful (and at times a bit eventless, I'll admit) introduction, all the build-up of suspense and intrigue quickly escalates and planes out as final plot holes are revealed. The script feels clever, even though you find this out mostly towards the end.
A lot of preparations at the start happen without the viewer knowing why. And that's one thing that makes this movie stand out amongst other movies, and war movies in particular. You're usually always initiated in what's about to go down, and how. If there's not a leader trumpeting out commands, the soldiers, - scared shitless - cowering behind a wall, are probably shouting it out themselves. Or asking each other. Purposefully building up the suspense for what's about to come.
But not here! In a rare movie moment you're given the opportunity to bask in silence as they fire up the engine... but don't use it? As they plant the bombs... but they don't go off? As the prisoner starts climbing out the window... but then they just leave? It gives me a sense of being there, or being near - being somehow involved, when I'm expected to know what the characters are thinking through their actions. As if I was a soldier myself. And usually they do offer perceptible hints, so you're not left in the dark completely, which would probably be equally annoying.
The thing I probably like most about this movie however is the sceneries. The castle, with it's stoney corridors, bastion-like outer walls and inner courtyard, antique interiors with fortified doors and modern mechanical equipment, a lift the only way in our out... it reminds me a lot of Wolfenstein. And it wouldn't surprise me if this movie was in fact one of the main inspirations behind a lot of architectural design in that game - especially newer releases. It also gives a sense of isolation, and the sense of myth and history that only isolation in an old stable construction might entail.
All fighting, shooting, etc isn't the most realistic, but the overall destruction is, and there's plenty of that! The characters are both efficient and disciplined, there's an air of 'let's just get on with the mission' - none of the unnecessary yet very common complaining and messing things up you'll see in pretty much any modern movie of the sort, and probably old ones too. It's an effective approach to the genre, with an authentic feel.
I can't help wonder, as they climb over the rooftop towards the end, how they can manage such stunts without gloves? Didn't they feel the cold before the 70s? I wonder about plenty of the other stunts too. On occasion it's clear there's a green screen behind them, mostly when they're in a vehicle, but some of those climbs look pretty dangerous! Considering it's the sixties, I wouldn't be surprised if they were: I'd be impressed. Good watch.
rated 4/5: fo shizzle