The Eagle Has Landed

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

A German raid on a sleepy English village to kidnap Winston Churchill was no more crazy an idea than some of the British commando exploits during the war. Based on Jack Higgins's best-selling novel, the film is a mixture of absurdity and excitement, with a number of surprisingly well-honed performances from the likes of Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence.

The Huns are good chaps, with the exception of Herr Himmler (Pleasence), who is a slime rat. Col Steiner (Michael Caine), the leader of the raid, has the reputation of being "astoundingly arrogant" and "a romantic fool", which means he doesn't give a fig for what the Nazis are up to and won't toe the line for Herr Hitler or anyone else.

No one at German High Command gives the plan a cat's chance in hell. In fact, the admiral (Anthony Quayle) in charge of "the feasibility study" tells Col Radl (Duvall), whose job it is to go through the motions of setting it up, that "this operation could make The Charge Of The Light Brigade look like a sensible military exercise".

Once Himmler gets wind of it, the plot thickens and the plan is set in motion. He is prepared to give Redl conditional support - the condition being that if it fails, he's on his own - and so Steiner is retrieved from detention, after being insubordinate to a Gestapo officer, and told to make haste to Norfolk where Winnie is weekending with friends.

One of the team is Liam Devlin (Donald Sutherland), an IRA man, who goes in first to recce the scene. Within minutes, he's charming the knickers off 18-year-old Molly Prior (Jenny Agutter), a horsey posh gel who rides bareback and talks through her nose.

The whole thing disintegrates into farce once the Yanks become involved. They have a camp outside the village, where Larry Hagman's Texan colonel is in charge. A certain gung-ho attitude prevails, with Hagman testing his J R Ewing credentials to the limit.

Despite stereotypical local worthies - John Standing's vicar takes the cake - fun and games prevail, unfortunately accompanied by automatic weapons. Caine demonstrates leadership qualities in the face of credibility defections. His presence makes the difference between entertaining nonsense and a rattling good yarn.

John Sturges's film was given a bashing by the critics when it came out. It deserves some respect amongst war movie adventure yarns, such as The Dirty Dozen and Kelly's Heroes.

Reviewed on: 22 Dec 2001
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The Eagle Has Landed packshot
Michael Caine leads German commando raid to kidnap Churchill from a sleepy English village.
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Director: John Sturges

Writer: Tom Mankiewicz, based on the novel by Jack Higgins

Starring: Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall, Jenny Agutter, Donald Pleasence, Anthony Quayle, Jean Marsh, Larry Hagman, Sven Bertil Taube, Judy Geeson, Siegried Rauch, John Standing, Treat Williams

Year: 1976

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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