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Film Review: The Great Escaper – True-Life Story of an Old Soldier On a Modern-Day Mission

Published on: 17 Oct, 2023
Updated on: 17 Oct, 2023

Michael Caine as D-Day veteran Bernard Jordan

By Mark Kitchen

In 2014, the real-life Bernard Jordan fled his care home aged 89 to attend the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy. Nine years later, Michael Caine portrays Bernard in what he recently announced to be his last ever role.

World War II veteran Bernard and his wife Rene (the late Glenda Jackson) are going about their daily lives in residential care when Bernard receives news that he has missed his slot to attend the commemorations in France. However, he sets off on an unbridled attempt to make it there solo and pay his respects to his fallen comrades.

Glenda Jackson and Michael Caine star in their last film appearances

Bernard’s journey is an often poignant, occasionally light-hearted tribute to those we owe so much to. While grappling with flashbacks of his time in combat, Caine’s portrayal powerfully captures a man stricken with survivor’s guilt.

Meanwhile, Rene is on her own, reminiscing of when she and Bernard first met and fell in love, which diverts her attention away from her ailing body. Jackson, in her final film role, delivers some delightfully amusing dialogue with the staff at the home, which counterbalances the film’s more sorrowful moments.

During his trip, Bernard meets an RAF veteran as well as a young soldier who met his horrors in Afghanistan. The instant understanding of shared experience provides some moving scenes that Caine and the cast carry wonderfully.

While the performances are where the film really shines, the story is a little two-dimensional at times, occasionally missing the mark of the patriotic homage it is trying to convey. Overall though, this is a heartfelt drama that may leave some viewers misty-eyed.

Running Time: 1 hr 36

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