The Eagle Has Landed

The Eagle Has Landed (1976)

World War II.

Jung speaks of synchronicity, of "events having a coincidence in time". It is just such a synchronicity that lies behind this story. In 1943, German paratroopers pulled off a daring raid, freeing Mussolini from his prison. Excited by this success, Adolf Hitler makes the patently absurd suggestion that a similar raid could, perhaps, be carried out to abduct Winston Churchill. His sycophantic followers delight in seeing the poor Admiral on the spot sweating, so they build the idea up. The Admiral knows the Fuhrer will quickly forget the idea, but that his followers will not, so he is forced to order that a feasibility study be carried out.

The Colonel given that task has just received an otherwise meaningless report that suggests, yes, it is feasible.

A squad of disgraced paratroopers—their leader, Colonel Kurt Steiner (Michael Caine) dared to show compassion to a young Jewish woman attempting to flee when being loaded aboard the trains to the camps—is recruited to tackle the seemingly impossible task. Disguised as Polish soldiers—but with their German uniforms underneath; they are not spies—they parachute onto a deserted stretch of English coastline, just a few miles from a lonely village where Churchill intends to spend the weekend.

The villagers accept their presence, and all seems to be going smoothly, until a little girl falls into the millstream. One of the soldiers dives in to save her; in the process of getting her out, he is dragged in under the waterwheel, and when his lifeless body comes out the other side, his German uniform is exposed. The villagers are locked in the church, but one escapes, and word gets out to a platoon of US Rangers based nearby.

With Churchill alerted and their forces under siege in the village, can Steiner and his men possibly succeed in their mission?

The answer might surprise you...

This is quite a slow movie, more thriller than action, and fully the first hour is focussed on the planning of, and preparation for, the mission. The action does ramp up in the second half, though, as Steiner and his men defend their positions against American and British forces. I was particularly intrigued by the idea of Caine playing a German officer who speaks English "without an accent"—given that I'd never seen him play anything other than a Cockney before. He did a great job!

IMDB: The Eagle Has Landed

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