1961 / Best Director / Best Picture

Film #254: The Guns of Navaraone (1961)

Every time a war film pops on this list I give out a little groan and I believe that’s because I was forced to watch so many of them whilst I was little. Though many have their plus points, such as our next nominee The Guns of Navarone, I still struggle to keep my attention during the entire movie.

The story concerns a group of men who are sent to destroy a number of massive radar-guns that have been aimed at the Greek island of Navarone by the German army. These guns are aimed at the island in order to threaten Turkey into joining the Axis Powers during World War 2. The group of men sent on the mission include mountaineer Keith Mallory, explosives expert John Miller, Greek army captain Anthony Stavrou and their leader Major Roy Franklin. The group disguise themselves as Greek fishermen but encounter peril from the get-go when their boat is hit by a storm and the majority of their possessions are destroyed. Meanwhile Franklin is injured during a climb and Mallory ends up taking control of the unit as they meet up with some of the island’s local resistance fighters. Eventually the team are captured by the Germans but, thanks to a diversion from Stavrou, they are able to overpower their captors and disguise themselves as German officers. However, Miller later discovers his explosives have been tampered with and realises that there is a mole within their midst. So it remains to be seen if the guns of Navarone will be destroyed or if our heroes will fail their mission. Which one do you think is more likely?

I’m going to try and be a little positive in this review and say there were some things I liked about The Guns of Navarone. The lead performances from Gregory Peck, David Niven and Anthony Quinn all had something to offer even it all three have done a lot better. As Mallory, Peck was a natural leader but was full of regret about what he’d done in the war up to this point. Mallory’s blood feud with Stavrou was also an interesting theme running throughout the film as I found it utterly intriguing that the latter had promised to kill the former after the war was over. I did enjoy Quinn’s turn, even if it was a slightly more aggressive version of his Zorba the Greek character that he would play several years later. Meanwhile Niven acted almost as the light relief of the film but then turned towards the end as he found out who the saboteur was in their group. My main issue with the film is that I just wasn’t invested enough in any of the characters and therefore I didn’t really care when they started dying in the final scenes. I do have to admit though that the action scenes were fairly spectacular for the time and that the film did deserve to win its Special Effects Oscar. I feel like I’m repeating myself when I’m saying the film is far too long but I don’t feel that the story needed two and a half hours devoted to it. Overall The Guns of Navarone was a well-acted war film with some great set pieces but I never really found myself immersed in the action in the way I feel I should’ve been.


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