There are certain films, particularly war movies, which were staple viewing for people of my generation, who grew up in the 70s and 80s. It is always intriguing to gauge how much my attitude towards these films has altered with the passage of time, and with the shifting sands of my own outlook and attitudes. One such movie is The Guns Of Navarone. I recently watched it, for the first time in quite a while.
Firstly, I had forgotten just how lengthy the film is! Much scope is allowed for the preliminaries and preparation, the tortuous build-up and the operation itself. I have not read Alistair MacLean's novel, on which the movie is based, but the running time may reflect a desire on the part of the film-makers to do full justice to the book. It also permits some concentration on the "human" aspects of the story.
I have always had a penchant for the kind of war movies which look at the more "niche" areas of conflict, and the less publicised theatres of war, and those which concentrate on special or clandestine operations, rather than the grandiose ones featuring mighty clashes of arms. A healthy dose of political intrigue, and room for plot twists and improvisation, are also very appealing. The Guns of Navarone combines elements of this, and also those of the "blockbuster", with its all-star cast and the sheer opulence of some of the visuals. This duality works well.
There are cliches aplenty throughout, although in fairness this picture probably invented quite a few of them! I found a few bits of the story a touch implausible, mainly the intricate ways in which the commando unit continue to evade capture by the Germans, but this is likely just the pedant in me making itself felt. These relatively mild reservations are counter-balanced by the cold reality which occasionally afflicts the raiding party.
Of the acting performances, Gregory Peck brings authority, gravitas and depth to his role. By contrast, I found David Niven a touch overwrought and unconvincing here. The real revelation for me is Anthony Quinn, both brooding and humane.
Even when subjected to my more exacting latter-day criteria, The Guns of Navarone still stands up reasonably well.