Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Eagle Has Landed (1976)

Representing a middling finale to an impressive career, The Eagle Has Landed was the last movie directed by action guy John Sturges, whose previous output included such classics as The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Great Escape (1963). Considering Sturges’ skill and the caliber of the film’s cast, The Eagle Has Landed should be terrific, but the story is hopelessly convoluted, and the film never quite overcomes the problem of featuring Nazis as protagonists. Based on a novel by Jack Higgins and written by Bond-movie veteran Tom Mankiewicz, who was generally better suited to tongue-in-cheek escapist fare, the narrative concerns an outlandish Third Reich plot to kidnap British Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the height of the war’s European action. Some of the Germans behind the scheme are, in descending order of rank, Hitler confidante Heinrich Himmler (Donald Pleasence), an officer named Radl (Robert Duvall, complete with eye patch), an IRA double-agent named Devlin (Donald Sutherland), and a disgraced Nazi officer named Steiner (Michael Caine). The overcooked plot also includes American soldiers (played by, among others, Larry Hagman and Treat Williams), plus a British lass (Jenny Agutter) who shares romantic history with Devlin. (In case you’ve already forgotten, he’s the IRA guy.) Just describing the plot of The Eagle Has Landed is exhausting, and while watching the movie is not quite as much of a chore as this synopsis might suggest, The Eagle Has Landed lacks the jaunty quality of Sturges’ best action pictures. On the bright side, there’s some low-wattage fun to be had in watching Caine play a snotty officer who openly expresses contempt for his superiors, or in watching Sutherland play one of his signature romantic rogues. Plus, Duvall has a few strong moments as the put-upon Radl, a mid-level officer who endeavors to follow orders while slyly working the Third Reich political system to protect himself from punishment in the event of failure. Good luck, pal!

The Eagle Has Landed: FUNKY

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