When you think of movies about WWII Prisoner of War escapes you generally think of entertaining movies about the ingenuity of British and American prisoners escaping from the German camps. "The One That Got Away" whilst a WWII Prisoner of War escape movie is very different because it is based on the true story of German pilot Franz von Werra who is reported to be the only German to escape a Prisoner of War camp. Now that certainly makes it unusual as whilst "The One That Got Away" was made 12 years after the war ended to have a British movie focus on a German hero and have him as the champion is quite unique but it is also different in style, less entertaining and more factual making it an interesting drama rather than an entertaining action/adventure.
Now I don't know how accurate "The One That Got Away" is in its version of the truth, in truth I find it hard to believe that Franz von Werra was the only German to escape a Prisoner of War camp but it is certainly interesting. The story itself starts on the 5th September 1940 when von Werra is shot down over Kent and after two sessions of interrogation in which he told the R.A.F. Interrogator that he would escape within 6 months is sent to a Prisoner of War camp in the Lake District. What we watch is von Werra's escape attempts, the first a daring attempt to go missing during an exercise session and make it across the wet countryside and then a second attempt to tunnel out both of which ended up in his recapture and eventual transfer to Canada with other German prisoners of war. But that is the scene of his successful attempt as he daringly leapt from a moving train into the snowy countryside. The story doesn't stop there but I will leave the rest for you to discover and it is worth watching to learn what happened.
Now the first thing which has to be said is that "The One That Got Away" must have caused a few raised eyebrows on its release because it does ask the audience to champion Franz von Werra. The focus is not on the clever Brits or Canadians who guarded the German prisoners but on Werra's patriotic determination to escape, seeing it as his duty to do so, just like British prisoners of war felt the same thing. So we watch in interest not only at to how he tried to escape, which in some cases were surprisingly simple but we also are almost championing him to get away with it especially when we witness him dirty, cold and exhausted eating a raw vegetable he finds in an old farm building.
But having the hero of the movie a German is not the only think which makes it different to other prisoner of war movies because it is drier in style. There is no real excitement and only a couple of moments of typical war time entertainment such as when Werra gets the men to sing to cover up the noise of the tunnel being dug. This drier, almost factual styling works because whilst we have Werra as the champion the fact he doesn't make a mockery of the British guards makes it seem acceptable. If "The One That Got Away" had been more jokey, with humorous scenes often found prisoner of war movies it would have felt wrong even if it would have made it more entertaining.
The key to why "The One That Got Away" works is the casting of Hardy KrÃ¼ger as Franz von Werra because he brings an authenticity to the role having been a German prisoner of war himself. He make Werra not an evil man but a patriotic German, serving his country and an early scene where he is being interrogated by the R.A.F. Interrogator speaks volumes of the man as whilst cold in his responses shows respect to the Interrogator who had been injured in combat. Again it makes the fact that we have a German protagonist to get behind more acceptable because we can see elements of von Werra in the way British prisoners of war were portrayed in the movies.
What this all boils down to is that "The One That Got Away" is an interesting movie because firstly it featuring a German pilot to get behind but also in its drier, factual style. It isn't as entertaining as some prisoner of war movies but it doesn't make it any the less interesting and in many ways more interesting than your typical prisoner of war movie which attempted to entertain by British and American soldiers cockily outsmarting their captors.