Film #16 in the World War II Marathon!
Written By: Carl Foreman
Directed By: Alexander Mackendrick & J. Lee Thompson
As an explosive action film The Guns Of Navarone manages to be a stout entry into that genre. The explosions are large, colorful and impressive. The action is streamlined, straight to the point and full of typical Hollywood good guy versus bad guy moments. All of the various action elements are handled nicely and have the Hollywood action flow to them that we have come to know and expect over the years. It may sound like a bad thing that The Guns Of Navarone sounds so formulaic, but in at least one area, large explosives and showdowns with the baddies The Guns Of Navarone does shine.
That brings us to the story, or the complete lack of depth that the story contains. Every character, from the most visibly present all the way down to the tiny foot soldiers are cardboard cut outs to the extreme. If you look for depth in any of the characters you’ll quickly be screaming ouch as giant cardboard cuts appear all over your fingers. I know that The Guns Of Navarone is just a flashy action flick, but it tries to convince the viewer that it is so much more and it fails miserably in that regard. Gregory Peck plays his role of Captain Mallory in morose fashion and occasionally drops words of wisdom upon the rest of his teammates and that is when we as the audience are supposed to go, “Ooh, that’s deep.” But, it’s not, it’s philosophical mumbo jumbo that doesn’t add much to the film at all and never actually means anything or matters in the slightest.
The bottom line when it comes to The Guns Of Navarone is that you shouldn’t go into it expecting a movie with actual depth. If you’re like me you’ll realize very quickly that the directors should have trimmed some time from the film to make a better action flick as opposed to an action flick that tries and fails to be more than it is. Enjoy the explosions and the shoot outs, even the terribly over the top ones with comically bad deaths, but leave your credibility meters at the door, you’ll be all the better for it, trust me.
I think you sell this one a little short. Yes, it’s an action film from 1961 so you can only expect so much. But it does everything rather well and the overall quality of the cast is what makes it worth watching 50 years later. It’s true the writing doesn’t shine but this has the benefit of allowing the film to stand apart from a modern viewer’s expectations. And, when all is said and done, the finale pays off in big Hollywood style. Not a transcendent film, but still one that can make you bemoan the state of movies today.
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I fullheartedly agree with the reviewer at the top. GUNS holds a special place in my heart for many good reasons: it was the film that introduced me to Gregory Peck, now one of my favorite actors; it’s one of the most satisfying adventure pictures i’ve seen, distinguished by spirited music from Dimitri Tiomkin (my favorite of his scores) and oscar winning special effects (especially in the slam bang conclusion, which has to be one of the most pleasing endings for ANY movie); and the performances that stand out. Peck might seem a little stiff at first, but the tough decisions and reality of their mission bring out the rage and torrents in his character, mainly in his heated exchanges with David Niven, in another great role. The rest of the cast, in my opinion, does a great job, Irene Papas and Gia Scala being pretty effective as the fighting females of the bunch, Anthony Quinn’s Greek Resistance fighter hardened by a bad past with Peck’s character, and so on. The “thinking Man’s” Action picture!
I don’t think I’d go so far as to call this a thinking man’s action picture. As I wrote, it’s a good action film, but on the whole it’s nothing more than a pretty good action picture. I’m glad you think as highly of it as you do, but I do not share your exuberant outlook on the film.