Netflix Instant Review: Von Ryan’s Express and The Great Waldo Pepper

Two movie reviews for you this fine morning, both available on streaming even as we speak. Both well-worth your time.

I’d never heard of Von Ryan’s Express before I came across it on Netflix, but it looked like it was pushing the right buttons: WWII, Sinatra, Action. What’s not to like? So Denisa and I gave it a shot. It’s a solid war movie that manages to avoid being predictable while giving you all the requisite prison escape thrills and then some.

The basics are simple. Sinatra’s an American colonel who crash lands in Italy and is taken to a POW camp, where he finds he’s the ranking officer out of 400 or so men. They’re captured. They want to be free. Need I say more?

There’s plenty of tension to go around, with the rest of the prisoners resenting Sinatra for being so new and American (they’re Brits), the Italians and the Germans at each other’s throats, and then there’s this train that gets involved eventually . . . I don’t want to give away too much, but I’ll say it’s a good 3 star movie, and well worth a couple hours of your time. I also enjoyed Jerry Goldsmith’s score, which was another plus.

Next up we have The Great Waldo Pepper, starring Robert Redford and directed by George Roy Hill (of The Sting and Butch Cassidy fame). Written by William Goldman (Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy). Redford is a pilot who barely missed out on flying in WWI as a fighter pilot. He’s left traveling the country, offering rides to people and trying to scrape by. He decides to become a stunt pilot, and dreams of making it big.

Denisa and I both really enjoyed this movie, too. It’s got some terrifyingly good stunts–which were even more impressive when I discovered it was Redford doing the stunts himself. Without safety harnesses. (How people can be that foolish is beyond me). Susan Sarandon plays a supporting role.

It doesn’t have a stellar IMDB rating (6.5 stars out of 10), but for once I’m bucking the trend and giving it 3.5 stars. Maybe it was just a “Great for Bryce” movie, but I really liked it and even debated giving it 4 stars. Just a few too many bumps for me to put it there. Still, lots of fun, and quite different from most movies I’ve been watching lately.

Anyone out there seen either of these? Care to comment?

Have a nice weekend!

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