There isn’t really any escaping from the classic film The Great Escape. Especially come Christmas time. Often seen as one of the greatest war films ever made, featuring an all-star cast and direction from one of the greatest of classic Hollywood directors, The Great Escape established itself as a household title decades ago. And it also happens to be a film that I have not properly seen myself. That’s not been a deliberate stance for me, it’s simply that – despite the acclaim and prestige the film has – it’s not been one that interested me enough to watch. The fact that I have never seen it was made very apparent to me once I watched the documentary that focused on it – The Coolest Guy Movie Ever.
The Coolest Guy Movie Ever, a great title if I ever heard one, follows a documentary team as they travel to a small town outside of Munich, where The Great Escape was shot. Their goal is to take us back in time, to the shooting of the extraordinary film, and find out whatever new things they can about its production. It’s certainly not a bad concept for a documentary. It’s certainly been done before, with Jaws, Apocalypse Now and pretty much any film that had Ray Harryhausen’s involvement in it. The problem is that, while it’s a good idea for a documentary, the documentary itself is not an engaging one.
The Coolest Guy Movie Ever falls into that unfortunate trap that many have before, where the topic at hand is infinitely more interesting than what’s going on in the actual documentary. It is very strange to see that a film, based on a cinematic classic that is almost universally praised and loved, is just so blandly filmed. There’s no real style to it.
Visually, it’s at it’s most interesting when we are seeing clips, stills and moments from The Great Escape. When we aren’t seeing those, which is most of the time, we are seeing long shots with fairly drawn out edits. While I do have an idea as to why this was the case, it’s supposed to feel like a film of the era that it’s documenting, it comes off as visually boring in practice.
As for the narration, this is where the film mostly lost me. The voice narrating the film is very over the top, which just took away from my experience with it. It’s a voice, or at least similar to a voice, that I have heard in a number of documentaries, and it never fails to distract me from what I’m meant to be seeing. Don’t get me wrong, I liked learning about the production of The Great Escape and I did learn some fun facts. But the voice used, and the more than understandable lack of interviews with the films cast distracted me enough for most of these facts to not really sink in.
It’s clear that those who made this documentary have a passion for The Great Escape. To not be entirely unfair, I am more likely to watch it now. But I wasn’t engaged with the film as a whole. It’s probably just me, but I’ve seen enough documentaries that worked as this one did that I found it too familiar and a little boring for it. I wouldn’t call it bad per say, just uninvolving. It’s debatable if The Great Escape is truly the coolest guy movie ever – I’d personally give that little trophy to Predator – but this documentary, sadly, isn’t it.
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