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(Review originally written at 3 September 2010)

Seems that the only reason why some people don't seem to like this movie is because it isn't being historically accurate. This movie however never claimed to tell a true story or that it's being based on actual events. It's merely a fictional story and movie based on historical events and also real life characters but done in its own way and of course told in an Hollywood fashion. But even though this movie might not be an historically accurate one, it's still one that works out highly realistic.

I must say that this is probably one of the movies that does the best job at showing what life as a POW must have been like. Many movies tried to capture this but a very few actually succeeded as well with it as this movie did. The movie manages to create a great atmosphere of despair, fear but also courage and honor. The movie is dealing with a lot of inner conflicts that live within most of these people who had to endure a prison camp and hard labor. Most of these conflicts get personified by only an handful of characters, which in my opinion is one of the movie its strong points. It could had easily dwelled on and inserted many more different characters, mostly purely for dramatic reasons but instead it decides to focus mostly on only just a few key players, from all different sides as well. It keeps the movie more personal and all of its emotions and reactions more effective and understandable.

But what also makes the movie so great and intriguing is the fact that it isn't just being a melodramatic movie. Actually the movie has a more positive vibe to it than you might expect from a movie like this. Despite the premise, it's still mostly a movie about hope and trying to make a difference and do the right thing in given circumstances. It's a movie that despite everything also works out as entertainment. It's not always an heavy movie but also one that gets fun and pleasant to watch. In a way you could say that this is one of those first adventurous and entertaining WW II movies some got successfully made off, in mostly the '60's.

It's a movie that actually combines a lot of elements. It consists out of many genres and it also has some different story takes in it. But it does this all very seamlessly, so it doesn't ever distract or takes you out of the movie. The movie feels as one great whole, that despite its long running time, always flows very well. It's due to David Lean fine directing and storytelling skills. He was a director who knew how to directed epic movies and big stories. This also was the first movie that earned him an Oscar as a director.

This movie actually won 7 Oscar's in total, which not a whole lot of movies can say. It tells you something about the epic quality and impact of this movie.

It's a movie that for a large part also relies on its characters and actors playing them. It's perhaps Alec Guinness his most acclaimed movie role out of his career and it also won him his only Oscar. He definitely also plays the best or at least most interest character out of the entire movie, as an officer gentleman who does things literally by the book and all for the greater good and well being of his men and officers. Despite this William Holden always got billed as main actor, simply because he was a much bigger name at the time, that also appealed to a wider, mostly American, audience.

It's also a great looking movie, that got shot at location, which obviously add to the realistic look and feel of the movie. The directing and cinematography all take an epic approach, also due to the fact that this was cinemascope movie, that simply required a wider and more epic look. David Lean is mostly known for his epic movies but this was actually his first really epic one and he really didn't directed that many movies throughout his career.

Simply a great and unique, timeless epic.

9/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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