Thursday, May 5, 2011

Where Eagles Dare: The Epitome of Escapism

Escapism is addicting. Like a drug, you can find yourself itching for another hit. Begging for reality to fade off and the ecstasy of mindless entertainment enthrall you. It's a drug, and while it can be abused by even the best of us. In portion, it is a great reminder of the power of relaxation. And after a weekend first time viewing of Where Eagles Dare, I can think of few films that better embody that ideal.

With everything from a dual machine gun wielding Clint Eastwood to Richard Burton going to head to head with Nazis in an ice axe fight on top of a ski lift, hundreds of feet above the ground, this movie has it all. And whenever given the opportunity, it blows it up as well. There's grenade battles, tough pistol and machine gun carrying Frauleins, spies, a castle, and more bullets flying around than a Michael Bay action adventure. And you'd think with 2hrs and 30 minutes of run time, the movie would run out of things to do. Heck, I've only just discussed the last half hour!

Where Eagles Dare is by all accounts a two part film. The first half deals with spies, setup, and lays the groundwork for the no holds barred shootout that takes over for the final half. Even in context, that first half is a gripping game of misdirection. Where Eagles Dare, headlined by the infallible Richard Burton, hints and teases the viewer with promises of twists and turns to come. Knowing full well that once they come to pass, the only thing left for the viewer is the payoff. And payoff the film most certainly does.

Granted, Where Eagles Dare is not without its fair share of camp. You can tell Burton and Eastwood put in no effort for their faux-German accents that are supposed to help them infiltrate the castle. However, given the manner in which the film plays out, it seems almost fitting. As if that bit of absurdity was in and of itself a setup for the mass amount of action absurdity mania that was to come.

In their own way every character is a stereotype, and every character is hilariously so. Where Eagles Dare takes no shame in that, and by embracing it, it frees up the viewer to enjoy it just the same. Where many films, given the nature of spy tales, would seek to cram a message into the viewer, Where Eagles Dare settles for old school entertainment first value. A value, that was just what I needed at just the right time.

I was in dire need of an escapism fix, and there's no denying that this supplied my satisfaction in full.

3 better thoughts:

Chase Kahn said...

Honestly, for pure adventure, excitement and just calm manliness, "Where Eagles Dare" is one of my very favorite movies.

I covered it during my World War II Marathon last year and it even surpassed great, immovable classics like "The Great Escape" and "The Guns of Navarone" for me.

Ron Goodwin's score is marvelous, Eastwood and Burton's personas are perfect for each other and I'm not sure that I've seen another action film that quite literally ends with over an hour of just straight shooting.

To me, this film exhibits quite a bit of what Tarantino did and didn't capture with "Inglourious Basterds". It was certainly an influence.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like I need to rent this one! Look at how young and handsome Clint is in that picture :D

Joel Burman said...

This is a classic masterpiece. I am actually surprised no one have tried to do a remake by now.

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