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MORE THAN A CHASE SCENE Thoughts on Meaning in Movies
The Academy Awards are this month, and I couldn’t tell you who the nominees are, let alone predict any winners. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good film. But with the demanding schedule of being a trial lawyer, I don’t really have the time to keep up with Hollywood’s release schedule. Besides, on the occasion I do have the chance to settle in and watch something, it’s probably going to be an old classic. Those who have been to my main office are probably aware of my love for the classic 1963 action-thriller “The Great Escape.” After all, I have a poster of Steve McQueen on his character’s stolen Triumph T60 motorcycle on my office wall. While I do consider McQueen’s iconic chase scene from that movie to be amazing, it’s not the only reason this film is in my top five favorites. Set in a German prisoner-of-war camp during the Second World War, “The Great Escape” follows the planning, execution, and fallout of a massive jailbreak attempted by the allied prisoners. The film walks a fine line between witty comedy and grim drama, a feat largely made possible by the star-studded cast. Joining McQueen are such silver screen giants as James Garner, Richard Attenborough, and Charles Bronson, who manage to masterfully tie together the more lighthearted first half of “The Great Escape” with the pulse- pounding drama of trying to hide from SS officers in plain sight. It’s this tonal tightwalk that makes “The Great Escape” one of my all time favorites. It doesn’t sugar coat the risks the characters face, nor does it pull any punches when things go wrong, but the movie isn’t completely grim. Even after McQueen is captured again, we’re left with a sense that this act of bravery and defiance is still worth it in the end.
I’m not opposed to a “Ocean’s 11” style popcorn flick every once in a while when all I’m looking for is a bit of excitement and escapism. But to me, the best movies are the ones that leave you with something to think about after the credits have ended. Films like “The Great Escape,” “Glory,” and “Chariots of Fire” aren’t great films because of their action; they’re great because of the way they leverage excitement and drama to ask thought- provoking questions. Some people think it’s ironic for a traffic attorney to have a poster taken from a legendary chase scene up in his office. But for me, McQueen’s desperate cross country ride toward freedom is about so much more than hairpin turns and
To me, the best movies are the ones that leave you with something to think about after the credits have ended.
six-foot jumps over barbed wire fences. It’s about refusing to give up on the chance for freedom, no matter the odds, and fighting for what you believe.
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