It's a decent, semi-gritty adventure movie that has a spark of depth but only half the heart to pursue it. There are interesting ideas about the morality and consequences of actions taken in war, but by the end the characters and the movie seem to forget them and just pat themselves on the back for a job well done. David Niven's character in particular is guilty of this.
He's the one who makes a fuss throughout the movie about Gregory Peck's "get the job done" attitude, but they go through that scene in which Anna is discovered to be a traitor and executed, and then he's guilty about it and changes his tune? Why? What he was doing in that scene was, by my judgement, throwing Gregory Peck's somewhat cutthroat values in his face, but when she dies he feels guilty? Why would he feel guilty? He takes no action that causes her death. He exposes her as a spy, but if he didn't they'd all be captured or die, along with the men they're supposed to save to begin with. If you wanted to make a point about moral grandstanding on his part, go ahead, movie. Just, please, I beg you, do it in a way that makes sense. Why give us a taste of grey at all if you're only going to fall back into a black vs. white adventure ending?
In the same vein, the movie also wusses out of a lot of good drama for the sake of being... less challenging, I suppose? For one, there's that great scene with David Niven's character towards the end, where Gregory Peck's character has to make a hard choice that will bring his internal values into question. They wuss the hell out and have somebody else take responsibility. Were this movie made ten years later, I think he would've made the choice, but 1961 was still well within the Hays Code era of Hollywood, AKA the Pussy Era. I liked that scene a lot up to that point, but then they squandered it with a soft, easy conclusion. Another minor one that I noticed is a spoiler one:
Around the end of the movie, when Anthony Quinn has to tell Irene Papas that her brother died, that could've been a tense, emotional scene, but they just have her already know, and throw the tension out the fucking window. That was pretty stupid, if I do say so myself.
All things considered, however, it wasn't bad. The melding of adventure and hard-hitting drama does work much of the time. Like I said, it could go a lot further if it really wanted to have some impact, but I liked the characters, and some of the action scenes were nicely done. It's fine. I wouldn't really recommend because it's too heavy and emotionally complex to be a crowd-pleasing action movie, but it's also too simple and lightweight to be an effective drama.
Also, that Australian accent at the start. I have no words for it. Everyone has to experience it for themselves.