The Great Escape was one of the best films that show the true meaning of teamwork that I have seen in a long time. The importance of this teamwork was evident throughout the film, from the beginning to the end. The movie is based in 1940’s era Germany. The plot is that the Germans were at the height of their power and they needed to establish some kind of prisoner of war camp to house all of the biggest troublemakersâ€¦those who continued to attempt escapes. Some may say that is not the best of ideas, considering that there are now many like-minded people all together in one place. People who all have various skills. Skills which are used to facilitate a great escape.
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In order to discuss how The Great Escape is a team film requires that one understands what a team film is. Teamwork was pivotal in this movie. Each person came together to share their collective knowledge and expertise in order to facilitate an escape of epic proportions. Consider Captain Hilts, The Cooler King. He continuously tried to escape. At first he wasn’t willing to be a team player, gung-ho about doing his own thing. Slowly but surely however, he started to work with the others, ultimately giving them some of the most important ideas for escape, such as a way to breathe while under the ground.
Captain Hilts was not alone in his actions however. Frequently the audience sees him with a cohort, RAF Flying Officer Archibald Ives. This pair attempted multiple escapes. While unsuccessful in escaping, they did serve to irritate the guards and show dedication and resolve to escape no matter what. After the primary tunnel is discovered by the guards, Archibald takes a turn for the worst. The unfortunate part of this is that he gives up any possible ideas of escaping with the team and decides instead to make his own futile attempt at escaping by trying to climb the fence. He is seen running toward the fence. When he begins climbing as fast as he can to the top, he was spotted by the guards who were previously busy investigating the newly discovered tunnel, and was shot and killedâ€¦very sad.
Squadron leader Roger Bartlett, a.k.a. “Big X” was the leader of all of the teams. He was considered the main escape planner and thus was awarded the position. He organized all of the escapees and sorted people by identifying their individual talents and skills. His role was to plan the escape of more than 250 POWs. The primary goal was to confuse and harass the enemy. Because of his leadership skill and prowess, he truly accomplished that goal. Near the end of the film we discover that he has been recaptured along with several of his allies. On the ride back to the camp, the convoy stops and the prisoners, Big X included, are ordered to stretch their legs for the long ride back. During this ‘leg stretch’, they are all gunned down by the SS.
RAF Flight Lieutenant Bob Hendley and Flight Lieutenant Colin Blythe were an interesting pair. Blythe was a forger, preparing the passports and identity documents for all of the escapees. The unfortunate part was that after all that time of preparing these documents by candlelight, he starts to go blind. He had made up his mind that he was not going to go, feeling that he would only be a hindrance to the escape team. Hendley was determined to help him get out. He worked too hard to help the others to be left by himself. Henley stayed with him until the end. This pair is seen again during their escape scene. They had decided to attempt traveling to Switzerland since it was a neutral country. Somehow, the two are successful in stealing an airplane from one of the Nazi airfields. Sadly, during their flight, the engine fails and they wind up crash-landing. The soldiers were tracking their movements and were already standing by for their landing. Hendley’s head is badly injured from the crash. Blythe, perhaps from shock, stands up at the edge of the hill and is spotted by the soldiers who promptly shoot and kill him. Hendley is returned to the camp.
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Another pair that teamed up was RAF Flight Lieutenant Danny Velinski (“The Tunnel King”) and RAF Flight Lieutenant William ‘Willie’ Dickes. This pairs’ limelight came in to play during the night of the escape. Earlier in the movie, the audience learns of Danny’s claustrophobia. He was describing how he has always been terrified of small spaces. When asked why he dug tunnels, his reply was basically that he digs to survive. He does it that he can escape. Willie is moved by this speech and determines that he is going to help Danny make it through, even with his claustrophobia. During the night of the escape, Danny has a claustrophobia attack and flips out, causing a rather detrimental delay to the escape process, but Willie, in true friendship, helps him out. These two are one of the few who successfully escaped without being killed or recaptured. They steal a boat and travel down towards the Baltic Sea, ultimately boarding a Swedish merchant ship. This goes to show how teamwork pays off.
Teamwork was what this film was all about. Without it, people would not have come together and brought their collective skills to the tableâ€¦a forger, a scrounger, a mastermind, each person helped the others.
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