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In praise of - The Great Escape.

THAT most spiritual time of the year is almost upon us, when we're reminded of the greatest story of all, of oppression, self-sacrifice and ultimately, ascension.

Yes, The Great Escape is set to light up our screens.

The 1963 classic is a tale of captivity without hope until a mesmeric figure arrives to lead men to freedom: Captain Hilts, in the heavenly form of Steve McQueen. Hilts escapes, then gives himself up to his captors (for Roman prefects read camp commandants) so others can escape persecution. And his crown of thorns moment ensues when his Triumph 650 launches him valiantly onto the barbed wire. Yet The Great Escape reveals more than the struggle to save humanity. It is a parable for how we should live our lives; not necessarily stealing motorbikes and riding roughshod over someone's freshly cut field, or taking a pair of wire cutters to a random bicycle chain, but endeavour to free ourselves from restraint.

John Sturges's film is about being more James Garner, about helping blind men to see, giving the next man your place on the tram if his world is crashing down on him.

Yes, death is inevitable, but don't surrender to it. Dig in hard and we may just make it to the trees.

On a less prosaic level, it is about sticking in at languages at school, in case you're dodgy German gets you caught out. And don't take lifts from strangers with large, green trucks who favour country roads.

Sure, there are no women in the Great Escape, but a Mary Magdalene exists nonetheless in Angus Lennie's character Ives, who truly does love Hilts.

And the Ascension? Well, Hilts never made it to freedom, but McQueen did rise again – in film legend two years later in The Thomas Crown Affair.

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