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The Great Escape: Inspiring Piece of Cinema

Posted on the 05 June 2012 by Haricharanpudipeddi @pudiharicharan
The Great Escape: Inspiring Piece of Cinema

Movie: The Great Escape

Director: John Sturges

Rating: ****

John Sturges gave two back-to-back films that will be remembered as long as cinema subsists, ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (1960) and ‘The Great Escape’ (1963). The former was an Americanization of the Japanese film titled ‘Seven Samurai’ by Akira Kurosawa while the latter was based on the book by Paul Brickhill.  The movie in discussion, ‘The Great Escape’ is a Hollywood masterpiece by design that shows how a simple piece of history can be turned into a worldwide phenomenal piece of filmmaking with ample scope for everyone to learn a thing or two.

Based on a true story, TGE takes us to a German POW camp during World War II, where allied POWs plan for several hundred of their number to escape. Lead by a legion of skilled English

The Great Escape: Inspiring Piece of Cinema
soldiers, every man in the camp, immediately set to work. Fearless and duty-bound, these men dig three tunnels named Tom, Dick and Harry under three different huts so that even if one tunnel is discovered, they can continue digging through the other tunnels. Will the attempt to escape succeed or not forms the rest of the story?

‘The Great Escape’ is the kind of film you should worship and ask your friends to do the same. Is this film so good that it deserves to be worshipped you may ask? Well, my answer is simple. The film is one among the best films undoubtedly however that doesn’t make it worship worthy. But, there’s so much to learn from this film, you’d definitely like to revisit the first line of this paragraph. The learning from this film is no match to what I learnt in two years of my MBA.

From a management perspective –

‘The Great Escape’ presents so many management concepts in its presentation that you’d be surprised to know that a film could actually teach you so much.

Team Building –

The Great Escape: Inspiring Piece of Cinema
One of the well-known universal management concepts that the film boasts is that of a ‘Team’ and its culture. The goal of the team in this film is to dig and set themselves free. Each member of the team is specialized in one skill and it becomes their responsibility to bring that to the table for the betterment of everybody in the team. For example; there’s Anthony Hendley, the “scrounger” skilled at digging up needed provisions; James Garner, at his best when he’s being adorably sycophantic to his Nazi captors; Charles Bronson, as the “tunnel king” Danny Velinski, offering a nice combination of bravado; and Donald Pleasance, the British document forger, so on and so forth. As you can see, the team wouldn’t have been successful had these skillful men were not brought together to achieve a sole purpose. Also to remember is that no man is different or superior to the other with respect to his skill. Even the person responsible for camouflaging dirt from the tunnel in the garden is as much as important to the one digging underneath. It’s team effort at the end of the day that will take these men beyond the barbed wire.

Leadership –

Each member in this film is entitled to a role, like most of us are entitled to one in our respective jobs or profession. The only difference between reel and real life is, we cling on to our respective designations and take pride in it. Richard Attenborough plays Bartlett Big ‘X’ in the film spearheading the operation along with MacDonald ‘Intelligence’ played by Gordon Jackson.

The Great Escape: Inspiring Piece of Cinema
Although, Bartlett and MacDonald lead the operation, they actively participate in team meetings, brainstorming sessions and also lend their ears to any shortcoming coming their way. The true spirit of a leader is shown here of one who persuades his team than bossing over. Bartlett goes to every team member and inquires at regular intervals about the tasks handed to them and also personally congratulates upon completion. How many leaders in our organization care to bother? All they do is panic and yell if the task is not completed on time.

Motivation –

There’s so much room for motivation in this film that will make you an expert overnight. Alright, I was just kidding, there’s no way you can become an expert but definitely learn how to motivate better than before.

The Great Escape: Inspiring Piece of Cinema
Scenes between Danny (Charles Bronson) and Willie (John Leyton) are the best examples of motivation. In one scene, Danny who’s claustrophobic since childhood gets stuck while digging when the dirt above him caves in. He panics and gasps for breath. Danny is so frightened that he decides never to dig again and look for other options to sneak out. Willie interferes and persuades Danny, requests him to look at the hard work he’s put in and convinces him to get back to work. Willie here not only persuades, he assures him his company throughout. Sometimes, it’s important to stick by the person who’s on the verge of breaking than throwing advice. Willie is empathetic while being motivational too.

There’s so much more learning in this film that you can’t ignore. If you ever plan to watch this film again just remember the points discussed above and I’m sure you wouldn’t disagree.

The best of all characters is the role played by Steve McQueen. From being a quiet daring soldier in

The Great Escape: Inspiring Piece of Cinema
helping inmates escape to the ‘there’s always some way out’ guy who spends most of his time in the cooler, Steve shows the life of a true American. While, the movie is a tribute to the 50 men who were caught and killed by Nazi, the real moment arrives when Steve is caught on a lush German countryside.


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