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This British made film stars Gregory Peck as Squadron Leader Bill Forrester, stationed in Burma in World War II. Forrester no longer cares whether he lives or dies, after his wife died in a bombing raid. When he visits a missionary’s house in Burma, he feels a connection to a young Burmese woman who lives there. Shortly afterwards however, Forrester, his navigator Carrington and another colleague named Blore, crash land in Japanese territory, badly injuring Carrington in the process. A long walk across hostile and unforgiving territory is the only possible chance of escape.

I wasn’t too sure whether I would enjoy this film. War movies are not a favourite genre of mine, and I wouldn’t have considered watching it, if Gregory Peck hadn’t been in this film. However, I’m glad I did. The Purple Plain is less a war movie, and more a film about the human condition with the war as a backdrop.

Gregory Peck was at his most beautiful in the early-mid 50s, and he certainly looks stunning here. His looks do not detract from his excellent performance however, and he really captures the two sides of Forrester – the lost and hopeless side we see at the beginning of the film, and the somewhat more optimistic side of him that develops. Having found a reason to live, Forrester has to face the very real possibility that he might die, and this is all shown very well.

Win Min Than plays Anna, the young Burmese girl who Forrester falls for. She is luminous in the part, and very appealing. (This was the first and last film that the actress ever made – she had not previously pursued a career in acting, and had fallen into the role almost by chance. She decided against a career as an actress, in order to concentrate on her marriage.) Maurice Denham is also good as the irritating but well-meaning Blore. The only patchy acting was down to Brenda de Banzie, who played the missionary at whose house Anna lived. De Banzie plays the part with a Scottish (I think) accent, which is pretty bad, and ended up distracting me whenever she was on screen.

Overall though, this is a great little-known film, and one that is definitely worth seeing if you get the chance.

Year of release: 1954

Director: Robert Parris

Writers: H.E. Bates (novel), Eric Ambler

Main cast: Gregory Peck, Win Min Than, Bernard Lee, Maurice Denham, Brenda de Banzie

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