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Superb performance from Caine in The Great Escaper before he sets sail for retirement

Film review: The Great Escaper (12A)

Starring: Michael Caine, Glenda Jackson, John Standing and Danielle Vitalis

Director: Oliver Parker Run time: One hour, 36 minutes

The Great Escaper
The Great Escaper

When discussing the fact I was going to see what Sir Michael Caine says is his final film, I was marvelling that he has appeared in 160 movies since his debut 73 years ago.

Then a friend said: “Yes, and all he has ever done is play himself!” A totally unfair accusation thrown at actors such as Caine who mould themselves into their roles so superbly.

But if this is the 90-year-old Cockney’s swansong then he has gone out in style, putting in a commanding and touching performance as D-Day Navy veteran Bernard Jordan who created a media storm in 2014 when he secretly left his Sussex care home to attend the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings in France.

Although the trip and all the newspaper headlines did happen, screenwriter William Ivory and director Oliver Parker have fictionalised and sentimentalised much of this moving story – and done so superbly.

The D-day flashbacks combined with Bernie’s post-traumatic stress disorder rightly show the horrors of war, as do the aerial views of the thousands of British graves. We should never be bored of World War II stories and always remember the sacrifices made.

And although little is actually known of the relationship between Bernie and his wife Irene, the warm way this tear-jerking film portrays their devotion towards each other is quite beautiful and mirrors the enduring love stories of thousands of couples like them all over the country.

Indeed, this film is as much a touching story of everlasting love as it is a memorial to those who fell on D-Day and the Second World War.

And Caine is not the only veteran actor who shines in it. The late Glenda Jackson, who died aged 87 nine months after filming was completed, puts in a wonderfully moving performance as Irene.

Excelling too is another octogenarian, 89-year-old Sir John Standing, who is outstanding as fellow vet Arthur, who befriends Bernard during the trip to Normandy and is his companion once there. Young British actor Danielle Vitalis is also compelling as Arthur and Irene’s carer Adele.

Caine’s movie debut was a walk-on part in Naval drama Morning Departure. How fitting that his final bow before setting sail for retirement is as a Navy veteran.

Rating: 8/10

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