Taglines: Now is the time for heroes.
Football plays a central role of the film. A team of Allied prisoners of war (POWs), coached and led by English Captain John Colby (Michael Caine), a professional footballer for West Ham United before the war, agree to play an exhibition match against a German team, only to find themselves involved in a German propaganda stunt.
Colby is the captain and essentially the manager of the team and thus chooses his squad of players. Another POW, US Army Capt. Robert Hatch (Sylvester Stallone), on enlisted TDY to the Canadian Army, is not initially chosen, but eventually nags the reluctant Colby into letting him on the team as the team’s trainer, as Hatch needs to be with the team to facilitate his upcoming escape attempt.
Colby’s superior officers repeatedly try to convince Colby to use the match as an opportunity for an escape attempt, but Colby consistently refuses, fearing that such an attempt will only result in getting his players killed. Meanwhile, Hatch has been planning his unrelated escape attempt, and Colby’s superiors agree to help him, if he in return agrees to journey to Paris, make contact with the French Resistance, and try to convince them to help the football team escape.
Hatch succeeds in escaping the prison camp, travelling to Paris, and finding the Resistance; at first, the Resistance decides that the plan to help the football team escape is too risky, but once they realise the game will be at the Colombes Stadium they plan the escape using a tunnel from the Paris sewer system to the showers in the players’ changing room. They convince Hatch to let himself be recaptured, so he can pass information along back to the leading British officers at the prison camp.
Hatch is indeed recaptured, but upon his recapture, he is put in solitary confinement. Because he is in solitary confinement, the prisoners do not know whether the intended escape has actually been planned with the underground, so Colby tells the Germans that he needs Hatch on the team because Hatch is the backup goalkeeper and the starting goalkeeper has broken his arm. Colby actually has to break the existing goalkeeper’s arm because the Germans want proof of his injury before they will agree to let Hatch onto the team.
Escape to Victory, known simply as Victory in North America, is a 1981 film about Allied prisoners of war who are interned in a German prison camp during the Second World War who play an exhibition match of football against a German team. The film was directed by John Huston and starred Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Max von Sydow, Daniel Massey and Pelé.
The film received great attention upon its theatrical release, as it also starred professional footballers Bobby Moore, Osvaldo Ardiles, Kazimierz Deyna, Paul Van Himst, Mike Summerbee, Hallvar Thoresen, Werner Roth and Pelé. Numerous Ipswich Town players were also in the film, including John Wark, Russell Osman, Laurie Sivell, Robin Turner and Kevin O’Callaghan. Further Ipswich Town players stood in for actors in the football scenes – Kevin Beattie for Michael Caine, and Paul Cooper for Sylvester Stallone. The script was written by Yabo Yablonsky. The film was entered into the 12th Moscow International Film Festival.
Escape to Victory (1981)
Directed by: John Huston
Starring: Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Pelé, Bobby Moore, Osvaldo Ardiles, Paul Van Himst, Kazimierz Deyna, Hallvar Thoresen
Screenplay by: Evan Jones, Yabo Yablonsky
Production Design by: J. Dennis Washington
Cinematography by: Gerry Fisher
Film Editing by: Roberto Silvi
Set Decoration by: Sydney Ann Smith-Kee
Music by: Bill Conti
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: July 30, 1981