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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Victory - Movie about soccer match and escape during Nazi rule - released in 1981 - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Michael Cane and Pele

Based on the Hungarian drama Two Half Times in Hell by Zoltan Fabri, Escape to Victory (or simply 'Victory' in North America), was released in 1981, starring Sylvester Stallone, Michael Cane, Max Von Sydow and Daniel Massey and was directed by John Huston. However, the USP of the film were the football players who starred in it, including the legend Pele. A rare film with an international ensemble cast.

The story is about the Allied POWs in a German war camp. Major Karl von Steiner (Max Von Sydow) is the camp commander, a former member of the German National Football team. Nazi big wigs order the Major to set up an exhibition match between the prisoners and cream of the German team, in Paris. Captain John Colby (Michael Caine) is the man coaching the POWs; he was part of the West Ham United, before the war broke out. The team is unaware that they being used as pawns in a Nazi Propaganda bid.

Captain Robert Hatch (Sylvester Stallone) insists that the opportunity should be utilized to plan an escape, though Colby insists that the plan would be doomed from the start, taking precious lives. Initially Colby had not included Hatch in the team, and after much pleading, he gets to be a part of it - as a trainer. In on the plan are a bunch of Brit officers who encourage the whole deal, even the French Resistance is out to help them. Colby’s superiors weigh in on his decision, using their influence to change his mind - succeeding in the end.

Hatch makes a risky attempt to escape first, he contacts the Resistance, knowing full well that they will not refuse; the French chalk out an escape route, through tunnels below the Colombes Stadium in Paris, which will lead to the showers in the locker rooms.

Robert Hatch will have to allow himself to be recaptured, so that once he’s back in the war camp, he can share the details with the others. As luck would have it, Robert is put into solitary confinement, this ruins his chances of sharing the details with his fellow prisoners; Colby rises to the occasion and tells Steiner that they need Hatch back (he is also the stand-in goalkeeper) in the team, since the first goalkeeper in the lineup has fractured his arm - the poor man has to undergo a forced fracture to prove the story right.

When the day of the match arrives, a group led by Robert is ready to escape during half time, but the others are taken up by the spirit of the moment, and insist that they finish the match and then leave, even though they are trailing by three goals. Although the bias towards the Germans and prejudice towards the Allies is evident, for all to see, yet the Allied players persevere, and the match ends in a draw. The penalty kick goal by the POWs is disqualified, and yet they manage to win the game. In the confusion following the game -  all the men escape.

However in reality, the 11 Ukrainian members who played the game during the Second World War had multiple games and defeated the Germans in all of them, and were recaptured, sent to camps where 4 of them died. These are the words inscribed on the memorial for the eleven footballers on whose lives the story of the film Escape to Victory is based:

“For our beautiful presence
They fell in a fight…
For ages your glory won’t fade,
The fearless hero-athletes.”

Remarkable movie highlighting the spirit of mankind to achieve the seemingly impossible. Must watch, classic!

Victory - Movie about soccer match and escape during Nazi rule - released in 1981 - Starring Sylvester Stallone, Michael Cane and Pele

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