01 June 2008
Just saw "The One That Got Away" a 1957 British film about the one German POW to escape from the Brits during World War II, Franz von Werra. It's a remarkable enough story and director Roy Ward Baker did an excellent job of making a taut, exciting thriller.
What struck me about the story is the manner in which it turns the viewer's usual rooting interests on it head. Or does it? We're used to rooting for the POW to get away, like Steve McQueen in "The Great Escape." But this prisoner is a Nazi, for crying out loud. I found myself with mixed emotions, he's a bad guy and within the bad guys he's a lying publicity hound. Instead of thinking him clever I often fumed at the bumbling of his captors. Then again in defense of the Brits he WAS the only one to escape (and not on the first try) and he was awfully clever and persistent, nay, obsessed.
Movies often focus on a character who is obsessed. After all, the story of someone giving up doesn't make for very good drama.
Anyway, "The One That Got Away" is worth a look both for how well it was made and because of how it challenges our usual automatic support of the protagonist. Knowing how it turns out a second viewing might allow the viewer to just watch the story unfold and appreciate a good film.
While the story that is there is a good one it stops just past half way through von Werra's war time experiences. From what the epilogue says it might take a mini series to tell his full tale. And we'd still be confused about cheering him on.