I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are no eagles within The Eagle Has Landed. There is, however, one Michael Caine playing an undercover Nazi with the task of assassinating Winston Churchill, so I do suppose that is an even trade-off. From The Great Escape director John Sturges comes a war epic with a frightfully good cast and a remarkable premise. Detailing what would happen if a desperate plan to traverse the coasts of England led to the assassination of their Prime Minister, The Eagle Has Landed is a sadly wasted opportunity. One premise that suffocates the war movie fan within me, and brings us firmly to a grounded, often incredibly dull film with limited entertainment value.
How a cast that includes the aforementioned Caine starring alongside Robert Duvall, Donald Sutherland, Donald Pleasence and Jenny Agutter manage to fumble this so badly is one of life’s greatest mysteries. At least it would be had anyone really been all that bothered about this film. We follow a group of eclectic characters who work together in a last-ditch attempt at pulling the war around for Germany. Led by Kurt Steiner (Caine), a decorated German war hero with a knack for rebellion, a group of Nazi’s posing as a Polish squadron infiltrate the coastal town of Norfolk in an attempt to bump off Churchill.
Sounds incredible, right? Well, it’s just a real shame that this bloated mess of a movie takes so long to actually get to its moments of interest. The Eagle Has Landed would certainly work as a ninety-minute, fast-paced action feature, but clocking in at over two hours and dedicating a good chunk of that time to a romantic subplot that doesn’t go anywhere is, at best, an annoyance. At least we get to see a charming Sutherland skip his way through the Norfolk countryside, an Irish accent laid upon his tongue and a bottle of the finest whisky in the land tucked neatly under his tweed laden arms. His performance would be great if it weren’t for the scenes he’s stuck with, he hangs in the rafters of action sequences and feels rather redundant at the best of times.
The same goes for Duvall, Pleasence and Agutter, with their supporting roles nothing more than cannon fodder for action pieces that aren’t all that enthralling, subplots that take up most of the running time and an overwhelming number of conversations between characters that lack the fluid motion necessary for the dialogue at hand. The pacing is inconsistent, to say the least, the real death blow to the film is from how often we spend amid build-up, rather than pay-off. The action scenes we receive are bleak and gory, great additions to the show, but there’s not nearly enough of it, and at times it feels like we’ve more than certainly been given the short end of the stick.
A great deal of filler composed of talented actors and standard direction, The Eagle Has Landed is a real let-down. Such amazing performers man the frontline on this one, all for it to tumble down into a bland, shallow adventure into how everyone in Germany has a room dedicated to planning out invasions of Norfolk. Rightly so, I suppose. I’d rather spend a weekend in Norfolk than watch this drivel again, a disappointing titan that makes a real mess of its rather simple premise.