Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday Movie Review: The Eagle Has Landed

The Eagle Has Landed (1976) 8/10
In the final days of World War II, an unlikely plan to kidnap Winston Churchill seems as if it might succeed. Directed by John Sturges.

I believe this is what is meant by a "corker." What a cast of characters! What a delightful assortment of oddities and quirks, and what an adventure!

The oddest thing about The Eagle Has Landed is that our "heroes" are all Nazis or Nazi collaborators. Tom Mankiewicz's screenplay goes to great lengths to give most of them motivations that are palatable to the audience; Col. Steiner (Michael Caine), for example, is court-marshalled for attempting to help a Jewish woman escape being transported to a concentration camp. But Himmler (Donald Pleasance) has given the highest authority to this kidnapping plot, and so Col. Radl (Robert Duvall) gets Steiner and his men—crack paratroopers—released.

The fact remains, you're rooting for Nazis. It's "safe" to do so because you know their plot fails and the war is essentially already lost, and because there is virtually no Nazism per se in the film (except for a brief remark about the "order" that England lacks). It's pretty much World War II as convenient backdrop for an adventure story.

And it really is a terrific adventure, with a little humor, a little slapstick, a lot of action, and a touch of romance. Donald Sutherland, as an Irishman working to defeat England to further the cause of a united Ireland, is terrific. He arrives in a small village, where Churchill is scheduled to vacation, in advance of the paratroopers; befriending locals, learning the lay of the land, and preparing for the attack. Meanwhile, he gets into fights, falls for a local girl, and does a generally poor job of maintaining a low profile. He's certainly the best part of the movie.

(And by the way, this movie passes Mo's Movie Measure: The interaction of local women is crucial, even though most of the characters are men.)

You can already tell it's a kickass cast, and I didn't even mention Jean Marsh, Larry Hagman, Treat Williams, or Jenny Agutter. The movie looks good (production design by Bond veteran Peter Murton) and moves beautifully.

The primary downside is the accents, many of which swallow the German names so badly that I had to use the IMDb to figure out who was who.

There's less to say about this film because it's fundamentally meaningless; it's meant only for fun, and it provides fun. It's one of those movie that makes the rounds on television, and it's worth catching.

(The Cross-post Has Landed)