There are films out there that are made solely for fathers. Normal fathers, not mine, since my Dad likes Priest and Cats and Dogs 2: The Return of Kitty Galore. But most films with the general population of fathers at their heart go down the route of blending action and adventure. It makes sense, since the two share some common tropes and are relatively easy to join together in a stylish enough fashion. The Guns of Navarone is one such movie that manages to spin a delightful action-adventure set in World War 2, with a group of undercover operatives sent off to blow some guns up.
Nothing more is needed than that very simple, albeit somewhat vague premise. Covert operations are easy pickings for adventure films, it gives us a good mix of the action provided by your everyday war movie, but also the stealth and experience of a journey at the same time. David Niven and Gregory Peck star in this J. Lee Thompson directed experience, pooling their valiant efforts together to provide a more than competent war movie with adventure and good-natured thrills at its heart. Espionage, unlikely allies, twists and turns, The Guns of Navarone throws just about everything it can at an audience and hopes for the best.
It most likely wouldn’t work if it weren’t for such a dedicated cast. Peck feels right at home in this, his earlier role in Bridge on the River Kwai comes into good use somewhat, a plucky American fighting for the good of the cause in both films, but this time played with more bravado and experience than that of Shears. Niven, too, makes for a good enough ballast to this cocky confidence, in a role that provides the simple British principles found within the typical, somewhat cliché wartime climate of taking it on the chin, picking yourself up, and getting on with the job at hand. These lifestyles clash occasionally throughout The Guns of Navarone, and they make for an interesting enough dynamic, one that carries much of the early portion of the film.
Once we’re out on the mission though, that’s where the film really begins to pick up. Peck steals the limelight on more than one occasion, with the team having their abilities tested more than a handful of times. I felt a slight tingle of nostalgia for The Guns of Navarone, even though this was my first viewing of it. The film reminds me of Call of Duty 2, a good portion was set during D-Day, and the grey overhead and dull backdrops of that dated video-game assault adaptation reminded me wholly of Thompson’s choice of background and setting. It’s rather nice, this nostalgia flickering from time to time, giving strength to a superb supporting role from Anthony Quinn. Quinn feels the most fleshed-out of the group, but perhaps that’s because he feels the most intimate and mysterious of them all. He’s not just another bland face with a vocal change being his only personality trait.
The Guns of Navarone is a thoroughly enjoyable piece, one that plays with the relationship between a misfit band of soldiers tasked with the impossible. We rely more and more on the dynamic between characters, rather than that of the actual mission, and it makes for some relatively engaging and memorable scenes. Its final half-hour is smooth sailing, with plot devices wrapped up neatly and characters coming and going at a startling but engaging pace. That’s what the film manages most though, its pacing throughout make it an intriguing little adventure film, strapped to the plot of a war epic.