Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The One That Got Away (1957)

I really enjoyed this British WWII film. It's based on the true story of aviator Franz von Werra who crashes in England in 1940, and his several escape attempts from British POW camps. He was apparently the only German POW to successfully escape and return to Germany. I think what was so enjoyable about the film is that it makes you root for both sides. I loved the patient British who were trying to keep him captive, and I couldn't help but like Von Werra and hope he'd make it. Okay, well, you know from the beginning he's going to make it, but somehow that didn't make it any less suspenseful watching it. Good storytelling that. There's a couple unsuccessful attempts first, so you start to wonder which scheme is going to finally work.

Von Werra is played brilliantly by Hardy Kruger. Now, I admit, I've loved Hardy Kruger from the first time I saw The Flight of the Phoenix and so am a bit biased, but he's perfect here. His von Werra is personable and still so delightfully full of himself. There's a great scene where the British interrogator implacably and politely reveals that he already knows just about everything about his prisoner, and von Werra's reaction is so much fun... by turns astonished, flustered, lost, angry -- reactions he tries hard to hide from the Brit as his little safe image of the world crumbles. The fact that the British have his lies about one of his wartime exploits nailed down, and his own people don't just adds fuel to the fire. He's a very expressive actor, doesn't need dialog to convey what his character is thinking. And I love that the British are nicely on top of things.

My favorite scene is one of his escape attempts, where he brazens his way onto a British airbase intending to steal a plane. You have to admire the sheer nerve of it. Very fun. And you also have to admire the British for stopping him before he gets away with it.

The only weak section is at the end, when he tries to cross the river. Drags on a bit too long and slips out of what has been a matter-of-fact tone and into a wee bit of melodrama. Could be also because they switch to a set for parts of it, and after so much on location shots, it just jars a bit. But only a very little bit.

Definitely one I want to see again.

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