John Sturges’s “The Great Escape” is easily one of my favorite action movies of all time, and one of my top five McQueen pictures (“The Getaway” takes the number one prize). It’s legacy and influence on pop culture and action cinema as a whole has been lasting, with John Sturges presenting a slew of brilliant actors at the top of their games in what is a very intriguing tale about escaping Nazi clutches, and fighting for freedom. “The Coolest Guy Movie Ever” is a fine and entertaining historical documentary for anyone that fancies themselves a fan of the movie. It’s exhaustive, meticulous in its detail, and we even get some candid stories about the cast.
Filmmaker Christophe Espenan and his crew travel across Germany to find almost all of the spots where filming took place, and learn some great details about what happened behind the scenes. We even get to view a lot of the monuments that are still standing to this day, untouched. Along with archival interviews with James Coburn, and James Garner, “The Coolest Guy Movie Ever” literally leaves no stone unturned, touching base with every surviving crew member from the movie and taking us on a virtual trip. Some of the best moments involve the more human moments form the cast, including McQueen’s parties that he held in his apartment, and Charles Bronson’s overly serious demeanor. While “The Coolest Guy Movie Ever” is a fantastic account of “The Great Escape” and its historical footprint, it’s also an incidental tribute to the coolness of Steve McQueen.
There’s a ton of exploration with how McQueen loved fast vehicles, performed his own stunts, and even doubled as a Nazi motorcycle rider. It’s explained that McQueen was so fast on the bike that the extras couldn’t keep up, so McQueen dressed as a Nazi soldier pretty much chasing himself. If there is one complaint I have is that, at an hour in length, “The Coolest Guy Movie Ever” feels a lot more like a glorified extra for an anniversary release of “The Great Escape” than anything else. It has all the gloss of a great special feature on Blu-Ray more than a cinematic documentary. Nevertheless it’s a very good documentary and a great trip through action movie history.
On DVD and digital HD from Virgil Films on August 21st.