Unhampered by the plethora of schmaltz that dogs many similar American efforts, MGM's Swiss-imported "The Last Chance" well deserves the title of the most intelligent non-documentary film to come out of this war. There have been more complex plots, more natural dialogues, and more starting acting, but the powerful impact of "The Last Chance" makes a good many box office smashes look somewhat green around the gills.
The story is a familiar one: the fight of two escaped P.O.W.'s through German-occupied Italy into Switzerland. Around this simple idea author Richard Schweizer has woven a brilliant series of incidents whose episodic qualities and to rather than detract from the film's intensity. Even the brief appearances of such figures as a Catholic priest or peasant girl are so carefully etched that they contain wealth enough for an entire movie.
The effect of realism, is heightened by the wide variety of characters brought into view: a Polish Jew, a German widow, a petty fascist, an English flier, etc. (English titles are provided for the eight foreign languages used in the background behind the Englishmen.) Yet among all these there is no villain, in the Hollywood sense of the word-even the fascist is an understandable human being. Nowhere have the Swiss fallen into the trap of personifying evil in well-known typed characters: the snivelling, mustached Italian informer, the hard-bitten, blond German storm trooper, or the bloated soap-box Mussolini. Instead, they have kept evil as a massive force--the German Army or War--against which everyone in the film is pitted; the result is a refreshing relief from the run-of-the-mill war movie technique.
In such a hyper-realistic effort, it is vital that the cast be shrewdly picked to avoid affectation, histrionics, and dramatic cliches; the international group, often even benefited by lack of previous experience, fulfils every qualification. "The Last Chance" differs from its many predecessors not because it is trying to say something but because it succeeds is getting a great deal beyond a feeble waving of the studio copy of the Americas flag. oaf