Friday, January 25, 2008

Rating Game Redux (23): A Short Stretch

Back to movies for our local paper; this time, Best Prison Movies. Once again I offer minority opinions, allowing my fellow panelists to laud The Shawshank Redemption, Birdman of Alcatraz, Bridge on the River Kwai, Stalag 17, and even The Longest Yard. I hope they all make someone's cut.

One I should've mentioned: Jacques Becker's Le Trou/The Hole (1960). Perhaps the best prison escape film, lean and direct, claustrophobic and dismaying--just like prison.

Brute Force (1947)
A relentless parable about fascism and the politics of terror starring Burt Lancaster, with Hume Cronyn as the sadistic guard who both manipulates the warden and tortures the prisoners while wearing the same glassy-eyed smirk.

The Hill (1965)
Somewhere between Goldfinger and Thunderball, Sean Connery delivers a perfectly controlled performance in Sidney Lumet’s sand-blasted tale of a WWII British military prison camp in Libya, where the prisoners are made repeatedly to climb a hill. Yes, it’s Sisyphus in khaki, an absurdist’s view of power and nonconformity.

Hart’s War (2002)
Stalag 17 meets Mississippi Burning, with Bruce Willis channeling William Holden and Colin Farrell as the innocent forced to confront a delirious space where racism, justice, and duty clash. The result is at once noble and unsettling.

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