In my post regarding engineers as heroes in popular entertainment, I neglected one movie that might not come up on everyone’s list. I missed it!
Steve McQueen plays a chemical engineer in The Great Escape. The sequences of him on his motorcycle, especially at the end, jumping the border wire into Switzerland, contain many iconic images, to use a much abused and overused word. The fact that he is an engineer is not important to the plot as in the other films – it’s only mentioned in passing, but it is a piece of his characterization, emphasizing his no-nonsense, individualist, American practicality, in contrast to the smooth, worldly Brits who want to run the escape operation. He just keeps trying to bust out on his own, until he finally joins the group effort. A classic meme from Westerns; the loner and the community.
The moment when the camera zooms in on him, gunning the engine at the crest of a hill, as he says…”Switzerland!” is, well, iconic of heroic male individualism. Best part of a movie that has its share of schmaltz.