Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Five Graves to Cairo (1943)

Director: Billy Wilder

Starring: Franchot Tone, Anne Baxter, Akim Tamiroff, Erich von Stroheim, Peter van Eyck

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Did a Woman Start the Rout of Rommel?

Plot: June, 1942. Corporal John Bramble of the British Army, retreating ahead of victorious Rommel, is separated after battle and ends up on the Egyptian border after a long, dangerous trek across the desert. He finds refuge at a remote desert hotel...soon to be German HQ. To survive, Bramble assumes an identity which proves perilous. The new guest of honor is none other than Rommel, hinting of his secret strategy, code-named 'five graves.' And the fate of the British in Egypt depends on whether a humble corporal can penetrate the secret...

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again? Sure.

I digs me some WWII flicks. This is one of many I had heard of but never got to...until now (well it was actually about a year ago but I'm just now getting around to writing about it). It's a neat little WWII action thriller set in Egypt that takes great care with the locale and the set-up. The opening scene with the runaway tank and an all-but-one dead crew (Bramble comes to after a while and gets separated from the tank) is great. Once Bramble is on foot across the desert alone it gets hot, real hot.

So he finds his way to this all but deserted hotel which is about to be taken over by Rommel and his men for their headquarters. The moments with Bramble hiding while the Krauts establish themselves is tense. Again, toward the end when Bramble sneaks into Rommel's room looking for evidence, there's more tension. You genuinely feel for this guy. He's not doing anything your typical good guy wouldn't do but Wilder really knows how to make movies.

Those are the best parts. The other bits...maybe not so much. I typically LOATHE comic relief in a lot of movies. Sometimes it works but rarely does in flicks like this. The sole Arab in the film (Farid played by Akim Tamiroff) is a buffoon. I hate that shit. It seems like so many of the WWII movies of the 40s and 50s had to have comic relief and most of the time it was at the expense of the Arab character. It's so dumb and unnecessary. Stroheim is playing Stroheim. I'm not buying him as the real Rommel but as a standard WWII German general who's full of himself but that's OK because I'm not watching this in lieu of a history lesson. Everyone else, though, is great.

The film wraps up nicely until the last 8 minutes where upbeat, propaganda shit comes into play. Had the film ended before that moment I would have been happier. I understand why it was done and all but still. You know? I did dig (ahahahaha) the final moment where we meet up with one of the principles. That was pretty neat and was a nice coda to the required uplifting propaganda shit. Overall, though, it's a better than average WWII thriller that would be a great Saturday or Sunday afternoon flick you watch when the weather is beautiful and the windows are open and that breeze is creeping through the screens...ahhhhh. I love this time of year.

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