The Guns of Navarone (USA/UK, 1961)

936full-the-guns-of-navarone-Directed by: J. Lee Thompson. I don’t know what compelled me to check this out, but it’s an old, classic WWII movie with Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn and David Niven, and it’s directed by the guy who did Cape Fear, so why the hell not? There’s not an awful lot of groundbreaking stuff in here, just some good old masculine escapism, some American exceptionalism, a shipwreck scene, some laughs, some highjinks, some demonic Nazis, lots of faceless Nazis, and a bunch of triumphant explosions at the end. I liked how this movie was a touch more sophisticated than I was expecting, and I’m really starting to give more credit to 60’s audiences and filmmakers. (To be fair, this is an era where Hitchcock is flourishing and my own is an era where superhero movies are flourishing, so I really keep things in perspective here.) The inclusion of two strong women characters (with roles that have more depth and more challenge to the actresses here than a lot of the Oscar frontrunners in recent years, frankly), and the inclusion of that single Nazi commander who is fairly straightforward and humane, just a guy in a uniform instead of a grotesque caricature of a “Nazi”, are both very welcome additions to the stock War Film. And the interpersonal dynamics of the group, the individuals struggling with trusting their commander Gregory Peck, and his willingness to sacrifice the individuals for the mission, all of that was pretty great. It wasn’t exactly subtle or anything, but David Niven expressed his moral disgust so amazingly well that I didn’t mind it for a second. This is my first time seeing Niven, and after this, I could listen to him all damn day. The same goes for Anthony Quinn, whose performance took what I would have thought would be a throwaway meathead character and gave it some much-needed depth. And Gregory Peck, for that matter, who I still haven’t seen in To Kill a Mockingbird, and who completely underwhelmed me in Cape Fear, was really quite good in this. He’s only a few steps back from Lee Marvin in Dirty Dozen, I thought, and this film really benefitted from a no-nonsense, fairly inscrutable, unflinching military leader. I think that maybe Peck is the kind of guy who does one or two things really, really well, and whatever emotional believability was required of him in Cape Fear wasn’t required of him here. I remember being really impressed with his turn in the The Gunfighter, which as I recall was much more steeped in this kind of grounded, mute cynicism, a kind of rough physicality that comes through in this role. Either way, if you’re into some good old, escapist, dude films, this one might not be a bad start.

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3 responses to “The Guns of Navarone (USA/UK, 1961)

  1. Pingback: The Battle of the Bulge (USA, 1965) | Offhand Reviews·

  2. Pingback: The Monuments Men (USA/Germany, 2014) | Offhand Reviews·

  3. Pingback: List of Judgements, Anno Domini 2015 | Offhand Reviews·

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