Where Eagles Dare: Five Questions

last updated: 27 February 2019 (approximate reading time: 2 minutes; 322 words)

Where Eagles Dare could be mistaken for a straightforward World War II action/adventure movie.

Released in 1968, the film stars Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Mary Ure. Some of the visual effects look clunky by today’s standard—for instance, the scenes shot against a background look wrong and the stage blood is too orange to be believable—but the story is still fresh and intriguing.

There are five questions that I routinely ask to help me get to the heart of any story that I’m writing. These same questions can be asked to analyze other works and when they are asked of Where Eagles Dare they uncover a story that’s more of a psychological battle than a physical fight.

While there is much derring-do and many explosions, at the heart of the story is an attempt by one character (Smith, played by Burton) to put others under strain such that they make a mistake and reveal their true natures.

Alastair MacLean wrote both the screenplay and the novel. This analysis focuses on the movie version.

question one: Who is the Main Character?

Major Smith (played by Richard Burton).

question two: What Does Smith Want?

Smith’s goal is to unmask one or more German spies working in MI6 (British military intelligence).

question three: What is Keeping Smith From Getting What He Wants?

Smith does not know who is a spy and therefore who can and cannot be trusted.

question four: What Must Smith Sacrifice to Get What He Wants?

Smith takes huge personal risks to uncover the spies. His mission sees him parachuted behind enemy lines to rescue a fake general. Not only is he operating in the heart of Nazi Germany and in extreme weather conditions, but he is surrounded by several individuals who are his mortal enemies.

question five: What is At Stake?

If Smith fails, then MI6 will remain riddled with German spies which would likely cause the Allies to lose the war.

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