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The amazing true story behind Michael Caine's The Great Escaper

Caine plays Second World War veteran Bernard Jordan, who escaped from his care home in 2014

Based on a true story, The Great Escaper is a moving new drama starring two of British cinema's biggest names, Michael Caine and Glenda Jackson.

Poignantly, it was the final film completed by two-time Oscar winner Jackson before she died in June 2023 at the age of 87, following a brief illness.

Caine, who is 90, has suggested it could also be his final big-screen outing before he retires.

Here is everything you need to know about The Great Escaper, and the real-life figures portrayed by Caine and Jackson.

How can I watch The Great Escaper?

The Great Escaper is out in UK cinemas now. A streaming release has yet to be announced.

What is the true story behind The Great Escaper?

Sir Michael Caine in The Great Escaper. (Pathé)
Sir Michael Caine stars in The Great Escaper. (Pathé)

The Great Escaper was inspired by a remarkable true story. The film follows Second World War veteran Bernard 'Bernie' Jordan (played by Michael Caine) and his daring 2014 escape from his Sussex care home to attend the 70th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day landings in France.

Jordan, a former Royal Navy officer, travelled to the event in Normandy with his medals pinned beneath his grey rain coat. His disappearance sparked a police search, which was called off when a younger veteran confirmed that Jordan was safe.

Read more: The most exciting movies still to come in 2023

The octogenarian received a huge welcome when he returned to his care home. His cross-Channel adventure lasted 48 hours and made global headlines, with the media dubbing him the Great Escaper.

He told reporters that his aim was to remember his fallen friends. "I had a good time, every minute of it," he said. "I'm pleased I did it. I'd do it again tomorrow."

A worker at his care home told The Guardian: "He's really tired out and just putting his feet up. He's had quite an adventure, bless him. He's pleased to be back, and we're pleased to see him."

70th anniversary of D-Day campaign
The real Bernard Jordan died in 2015. (PA Images/Alamy)

On Jordan's 90th birthday, days after his return, he received more than 2,500 birthday cards from around the world. He was later made an honorary alderman of Brighton and Hove, having previously served as mayor of Hove between 1995 and 1996.

Jordan died in hospital in January 2015, aged 90. His wife of 60 years, Irene (also known as Rene), died seven days later, aged 88. The couple's estate, worth about £600,000, was left to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).

According to the film's official synopsis, the story of Jordan's escape "embodied the defiant, 'can-do' spirit of a generation that was fast disappearing. But of course, it wasn't the whole story. It was an inspirational but sanitised retelling of one man's need to come to terms with the lasting trauma of war.

"Bernie's adventure, spanning a mere 48 hours, also marked the culmination of his 60-year marriage to Rene (Glenda Jackson) – The Great Escaper celebrates their enduring love but always with an eye to the lessons we might learn from the Greatest Generation."

What are the reviews like?

Glenda Jackson in The Great Escaper. (Pathé)
Glenda Jackson in The Great Escaper. (Pathé)

Get your tissues ready because it sounds like The Great Escaper does a great job of pulling on the heartstrings. Critics have praised the double act of Caine and Jackson and their ability to provide heady doses of warmth and pathos.

According to The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, there is a "huge amount to enjoy from these legendary performers". He added that the pair's "ineffable class give this film some real grit".

The Telegraph critic Tim Robey called Jackson's performance "utterly transfixing" and said that her "rude vitality was undimmed to the last". The Independent's Clarisse Loughrey also praised the "wonderful" casting but criticised the film's "patriotic sentimentalism".

Read three reviews for The Great Escaper below:

The Guardian: Michael Caine and Glenda Jackson exude ineffable class (3-min read)

The Telegraph: Glenda Jackson is utterly transfixing in her final film (3-min read)

The Independent: Mawkish patriotism lets down the wonderfully paired Michael Caine and Glenda Jackson (3-min read)

Sussex World: Michael Caine and Glenda Jackson sparkle in heartwarming movie (1-min read)

Who is in The Great Escaper cast?

Michael Caine in The Great Escaper. (Pathe)
Michael Caine in The Great Escaper. (Pathe)

The shoot was a reunion for Michael Caine and Glenda Jackson, who previously shared the screen in Joseph Losey's The Romantic Englishwoman in 1975.

Other cast members include Will Fletcher and Laura Marcus, who play the younger version of Caine and Jackson's characters, as well as veteran actor John Standing and Black Mirror's Danielle Vitalis.

Caine paid tribute to his Jackson after her death earlier this year, calling her: one of our greatest movie actresses". He added: "It was a privilege to work with her on The Great Escaper recently, our second film together. It was as wonderful an experience this time as it was 50 years ago. I shall miss her."

Read more: New on Netflix in October 2023

The director Oliver Parker said he was "shocked and deeply saddened" by her death. "It was the privilege of a lifetime to work with her," he added.

"She had such fierce intelligence, such passion, and fearlessness. It is hard to believe that it was less than a month ago that we screened the finished film for her and Michael – she was as feisty and vibrant as ever and we will treasure the memory of that emotional and happy day."

Is there a trailer for The Great Escaper?

The first trailer for The Great Escaper was released online July 2023, giving us our first proper look at the movie.

In it, we see Caine as Jordan, the veteran who makes an unlikely pilgrimage to France to mark the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landing.

We also glimpse Jackson's final on-screen performance as his loving wife Irene who joins him on this journey – in spirit.


The Great Escaper is out in UK cinemas now