Farewell Michael Caine and Glenda Jackson

Farewell Michael Caine and Glenda Jackson

Two legends of cinema are bid farewell in Oliver Parker’s film, The Great Escaper. 

This inspiring biopic is based on the true story of 89-year-old Bernard Jordan, a World War II veteran who “escaped” from his nursing home in England, wearing his war medals, to visit France for the D-Day commemorations in 2014.

After Bernard decides to cross the English Channel, the narrative splits between his adventure in France – played by the retired Sir Michael Caine – and his wife, Rene in the nursing home – by the late Glenda Jackson.

Amid the media’s frenzy over the elderly war hero’s escape and the woman left behind, unfolds a moving story of death, and survivor’s guilt, that is a touching swan song for its accomplished stars.

Michael Caine, a real-life army veteran of the Korean War and two-time Academy Award winner, worked mainly in theatre before achieving international stardom in his 1964 role in Cy Endfield’s Zulu. Meanwhile, Glenda Jackson, who died mid-2023, was as accomplished in politics as in film, serving as a British MP for 23 years as well as winning two Academy Awards. The pair last appeared on screen together in the 1975 film, The Romantic Englishwoman, a half-century before their reunion and farewell in The Great Escaper.

The film offers a beautiful synergy between the context of production and its subject matter, going to great lengths to inspire, without sentimentalising. At 89, Bernard worries that he has left his visit to pay respects to his fallen comrades too late. However, inspired by the support of his wife, Bernard defies this ageist expectation.

What follows is a gritty yet humorous unpicking of old age and a testament to life’s greatest truth – that no matter who we are, we all face the same end, and no matter when we go, time is always running out.



For two stars, who achieved the height of critical acclaim and whose retirement from the silver screen suggests no diminished acting skill, this seems a fitting, bittersweet message.

Technically, The Great Escaper is a delicate tour-de-force. Parker employs fluid camera movements, favouring tracking shots that centre us within the protagonist’s world. John Standing, Victor Oshin and Danielle Vitalis offer memorable supporting performances as nursing home staff and veterans on D-Day pilgrimages.

The film boasts superb dialogue by William Ivory and an original score by Craig Armstrong whose credits include the soundtrack for Romeo + Juliet (1996), Moulin Rouge! (2001), Love Actually (2003), and Far from the Madding Crowd (2015).

The narrative is well-paced and nuanced, reflecting not only on ageing but the endurance of love and the treatment of veterans. The motif of the “magic hour” – the first golden hour of sunrise – hits with pinpoint accuracy serving both as a romantic rallying point for our lovers and harkening to life’s ephemerality.

Although Parker’s modest story could be mistaken by some as suffering from a lack of ambition, the clarity of The Great Escaper’s telling only enhances its authenticity. Combined with the tremendous acting powers of Caine and Jackson, this film is an ode to life, a touching farewell for its stars and a worthy commemoration of those who sacrifice their life in service.

The Great Escaper is currently screening at Cinema Nova, Palace Kino Cinema, HOYTS Victoria Gardens and Palace Westgarth Cinemas. •


Ruby Lowenstein is a writer, critic, and producer. She holds an BA with Honours in cinema and an MA in Arts and Cultural Management from the University of Melbourne.

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