After another total washout for our national team on the world stage I've come to realise with some despair that this film is probably the last time we won anything!
To a child growing up in the 1980s, Escape To Victory was the best film ever! It married the two fascinations inherent in the British psyche (football and the war) and brought together a superb cast to play the Allied 11; Michael Caine led a team of football legends, some players of the day, such as Ossie Ardiles, alongside heroes dads or older brothers would speak of in reverential tones; Bobby Moore, Pele....and if that wasn't enough, there's even bloody Rocky in goal!
Of course the older you get the more you realise how silly this is. There's a germ of intelligent and indeed more serious entertainment occasionally glimpsed here, the story was inspired by a real life and altogether more tragic event, known as 'The Death Match' and the argument of co-operation or collaboration is given voice (albeit half heartedly, unlike say The Bridge On The River Kwai) regarding Caine's team captain Colby.
But overall, it's perhaps just as well the film doesn't take itself too seriously - as much as I love Michael Caine, it requires some suspension of disbelief to imagine the well fed paunchy 50 something movie star as a malnourished POW and former West Ham and international footballer! Whilst one can almost see the boxes ticked to get Stallone to sign his contract; Gets head kicked in *tick*, Gets a romantic interest *tick*, Gets to escape and have some solo action in the middle of the film that really drags the pace *tick*, Big showy display to win the game *tick* - as it is such good intentions that has made this a TV perennial for every Christmas, Bank Holiday and, of course, during every international football tournament ever since its release.
And that slo-mo of Pele's triumphant overhead goal culminating in sympathetic German officer Max Von Sydow's rapturous applause is a thing of beauty.
As Caine himself says just prior to kick off "Here's to victory!"