15 August 2012

Film: Where Eagles Dare (1968)

Thoughts: Where Eagles Dare is a Dad film, through and through. And, now that I am a Dad, I can safely say that it is COMPLETELY. FUCKING. AWESOME. The film has fantastic acting, directing, characters, action, suspense and music. Simply put, it is amazing. And you can see where Tarantino got a lot of his ideas for Inglourious Basterds in this.

There's not much I can say in regards to the plot, for fear of giving the many twists and turns away, but I can easily tell you that it concerns a very small Allied contingent that has to work its way into a Nazi stronghold that is only accessible by land, up in the mountains. It is there that they must sneak in, and rescue an American prisoner of very high importance. Or so it would seem...

A film like this needs a good, strong lead. And in Richard Burton's Major Smith, you have one certified, grade-A memorable bad-ass. Unshakably cool and endlessly resourceful; Smith is the kind of dude that you would want to have by your side in any situation that takes a turn for the worse. As he is described in the film, he seemed gifted with a "sixth, seventh and eighth sense". Being: he seems to know exactly what to do, all the time, sometimes hours in advance. And he's even more adept with his tongue than he is with his fists (that's what she said); playing a dangerous but almost delirium-inducing game of manipulation smack-bang in the middle of the flick. Fucking amazing. Now, this is not to say that the supporting cast is phoning it in; in fact, far from it. Clint Eastwood plays- well, Clint Eastwood. As a one man wrecking ball. There's a variety of other actors and a couple of very attractive leading females, and all bring their A game. But without Burton and his god-like Major Smith, this would be a very different film entirely. Oh, the magic of the movies.

And the direction. There's only one flashback, and that's quite literally during the opening sequence. Everything else plays out in real time, and oh how I love it. The film may seem a bit staid at first, but stick with it, you'll catch the rhythm soon enough. The film treats silence the only way Dads truly understand it: as a precious resource to be used as often as possible. We get to see long stretches of quiet preparation, and action, as our group performs such tasks as setting traps, taking out guards, or infiltrating high traffic areas as Nazi officers. Ah, it's so damn awesome! In fact, I was so into the game that when the inevitable "thing that goes wrong" goes wrong, I was yelling at the TV "No! No! It was all going so well!". Like a well oiled machine that gets a bit of dirt in the motor, it all starts to go out of control.

...but not so much for our crew. No, they get shot at, blown up, beaten up and pushed around, but all they suffer is a scratch. Because in this magical movie, Clint Eastwood can take out an entire squadron with one rifle. And everything- I mean EVERYTHING- explodes on impact. I mean, a car hits a tree, it explodes. A car gets pushed off a cliff, it explodes. Before it hits anything. A stationary plane bonks into another stationary plane, THEY EXPLODE. Seriously, our guys could throw an empty gun and it would take out three guys, then explode. They're like a two and five person wrecking and demolition squad. And the Nazis, well, they're pretty much just there to be fucked up. Both useless in action and useful for target practice. They can't even see people climbing up walls, or riding on top of skycars, or anything. And I love how they wage war on various things, like Nazis Vs. Doors! Or Nazis Vs. Empty Skycar! Or (my personal favourite) Nazis Vs. Fallen Tree! It's like these guys don't seem to have radios or anything.

Now, I know that might all sound completely ridiculous. And, come to think of it, yeah, I guess it kind of is. But goddamn if it doesn't just WORK. It was just really satisfying to watch a group of people decide to wage guerrilla war on the Nazis themselves, activate god-mode and no-clipping cheats, and just go to town. It's like the perfect mixture of action and intrigue. And when you consider that the film's first half consists of quiet, calculated infiltration, and the last half practically ends with the destruction of the entire mountainside Nazi camp, there's really not much wiggle room for complaint. I don't think I need to say much more. My number stands strong below.


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