15 July 2012 | secondtake
Well done, straight forward, harrowing story, a bit two-dimensional
The One that Got Away (1957)
Not quite documentary in form, this is still a true life story told in a dry and sometimes rather funny British way about the one known P.O.W. who escaped from the British and returned to Germany in WWII. They tell you this in the opening titles, so in a way you know the whole plot.
And this changes the way you look at it all, wondering, okay, now how is he going to escape. And then he does. Yes. But it's how it happens, and the incredible chutzpah and cleverness that let it follow through. It's the kind of part Brad Pitt would play, with a terrible German accent of course, but this one is 1957 and Hardy Kruger, who is German (he's still alive in his 80s), is played with dash and compassion. I liked him despite the ingrained sentiment we have (here in the U.S. at least) that Nazis in the movies are terrible people.
This is Kruger's first significant film role, and he actually served in the German army as a teenager in the war. His character is so likable and cunning, you gradually come to admire and almost root for him, even though the British and later the Canadians are all doing a pretty decent job overall, however lax it might seem to us. This is set in 1940, and the U.S. isn't yet in the war and so represents neutral territory even for a Nazi (always a weird thing to swallow in retrospect) and this plays a role in the latter half the movie.
The drawback of the film is its inevitability. And its linear quality, following the increasingly outrageous and difficult escape. But it's smartly done, with understatement, and if you like the bravery and adventure of a man on his own against the odds, this might just resonate. And of course WWII buffs will get it at least from the periphery. It's got some good glimpses of planes and flying, and a decent sense of life on the ground in this period.