Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • PG
  • Action, Sport
  • 1981
  • 117 mins

Escape To Victory

Escape To Victory

Synopsis

Loved by fans, reviled by critics, veteran director John Huston directs Michael Caine and an all-star World XI in this jingoistic film about war, football and Englishness-under-fire

Critic's Review

Michael Caine stars as John Colby, a former professional footballer whose career was abruptly ended by World War II. Now a prisoner of war in a German camp, Colby passes his time playing football with his fellow inmates while the other officers plan elaborate schemes for escaping. When challenged by Max von Sydow's Major Von Steiner to put together a team to take on the guards, Colby agrees with the promise of extra rations for the team.

Back at Nazi HQ, they are quick to sniff a possible propaganda opportunity. Say what you like about the Nazis, you can't fault their marketing. The match is quickly upgraded from a small 'friendly', to a full-scale match against the German national football team. ("But we've never beaten the English at football." How times change.) The Hun, of course, have no intention of playing fair. They never do.

The English officers aren't pleased. Colby is accused of collaborating and aiding the German propaganda machine, until they realise the match has escape potential.

The allied team put together by Caine includes the luminous talents of Pelé, Ossie Ardiles, Bobby Moore and, somewhat bizarrely, Sylvester Stallone in goal. Being the good soul that he is, Colby insists that eastern European footballers are allowed to join Rambo and Co from the concentration camps. An officer and a gentleman, then. And we thought he was just a talented holding midfielder with a sweet right foot.

Huston's source material was the series of real-life matches played in occupied Ukraine between Nazi officers and Dynamo Kiev. The victorious Ukrainians were rewarded by being sent to concentration camps by the Gestapo.

Huston's old-fashioned escape movie really comes to life during the beautifully choreographed football scenes, and the uplifting score is reminiscent of both The Great Escape and 'Dad's Army'.

Stallone's aggravating presence as the brash American goalkeeper is the only real blight on a thoroughly enjoyable 'Boy's Own'-style yarn. The final match in occupied Paris is a joy of cinematography, while the crowd singing 'La Marseillaise' is enough to have you blubbing like Paul Gascoigne.

In a nutshell: A cracking good story and some of the best football action committed to celluloid have made this a Bank Holiday classic. Just pretend Sylvester Stallone isn't there. It's for the best.

By Ben Reynolds

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Michael Caine, Tim Pigott-Smith, Bobby Moore, Pelé, Max Von Sydow, Daniel Massey, Co Prins, Osvaldo Ardilles, Werner Roth, Russell Osman, John Wark, Sylvester Stallone, Amidou
  • Director: John Huston
  • Screen Writer: Evans Jones, Yabo Yablonsky
  • Producer: Freddie Fields
  • Photographer: Gerry Fisher
  • Composer: Bill Conti

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4

    We Bought a Zoo

    A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family

    On Film4: 6 Sep 6:25PM

  • Film4

    The Nebraskan

    Philip Carey stars as a calvary scout who attempts to make peace with the Sioux Indians

    On Film4: 8 Sep 11:00AM

  • Film4

    Trance on Film4

    A crime thriller by Danny Boyle, starring James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson.

  • Film4

    Stand Up Guys on Film4

    Al Pacino and Christoper Walken star in this crime comedy about a pair of criminals reunited after one gets out of prison

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share