Where Eagles Dare (1968)
This mother of the modern action movie was more or less commissioned by Richard Burton, whose children wanted to see him in a classical action-adventure. He approached producer Elliott Kastner, who hired Scottish thriller writer Alistair MacLean, and the result became a film which encapsulates just about everything that is fun about movies. Everything from the brilliantly convoluted plot to the upliftingly carefree execution is edge-of-your-seat stuff. Burton and Eastwood didn't seem to take the story all that seriously, but that may well be one of this timeless semi-masterpiece's many strokes of genius. Their nonchalant, machismo performances set the tone for how their characters' otherworldly brilliance and bravery took care of the constantly short-sighted (but never short-staffed) nazis. What makes it work so well as a suspense movie, however – both then and now – is that even though the characters' execution is effortlessly flawless, Alistair MacLean's script is so tightly wound and clever in its simplicity that it keeps you pinned even after decades of repeated viewings. If the action genre was ever perfected, it was with this film with its equal measures of well-applied cliches and creative brilliance. And if you're one of the few unfortunate who cannot look past the simple dichotomy and inauthenticity of post-WWII war films, you will at least enjoy the immensely fantastic musical score by Ron Goodwin, which is the real star of this show. From the opening titles and until the very end, it is his drums and strings that drive the suspense forward and create the seductive, chauvinistic ambience that makes you want to join the military and fight Nazis with Major Smith's suave intelligence and Schaffer's unassailable confidence.
You enjoyed your trip?
Smith: Lieutenant, in the next 15 minutes we have to create
enough confusion to get us out of here alive.