A Final Curtain Call for Caine and Jackson


Michael Caine and the late Glenda Jackson bring their considerable acting skills to bear on The Great Escaper, a simple, heart-warming story of a D-day veteran who “escapes” to France to attend the 70th anniversary celebrations of the landings in Normandy. Based around the media storm that briefly engulfed the real life ex-soldier, Bernard Jordan, it’s a sweet but unsentimental homage to quiet heroism.

Glenda Jackon’s last film, and reportedly Caine’s too, it’s also a celebration of two illustrious acting careers that have collectively spanned the latter half of the twentieth century, in Jackson’s case interrupted only by the small matter of representing her constituency as an MP. As you would expect, they are outstanding. Caine is both droll and lugubrious as a man determined to not grow old without a fight, while Jackson is impish and sarcastic, happily conspiring in her husband’s last great adventure. The incomparable heft the couple bring to the screen allows us to instantly empathise with this loving couple, without any need to flesh out their back story.

There’s fine support too, from Danielle Vitalis as care worker Adele and John Standing  as Arthur, a man who harbours a terrible secret around which the narrative of the film pivots. Director Oliver Parker adopts an unflashy style throughout, rightly confident that the charm and charisma of his lead performers will carry the movie. Unexpectedly melancholic, with Caine portraying a man dogged by survivor’s guilt, The Great Escaper is about mourning loss rather than with celebrating victory. Its hard to say how close it mirrors Bernard Jordan’s story, of which we know little, but it nonetheless stands as an honourable memorial to those lost in the war and Jordan himself, who sadly passed away soon after. It’s also the perfect curtain for two of our greatest actors.