Victory amounts to a frankly oldfashioned World War II morality play, hinging on soccer as a civilized metaphor for the game of War.
Though set in a German p.o.w. camp in 1943, Victory is barely a ‘war movie’ by any stretch. Plot hinges on a morality-building ploy by a genteel propaganda officer (Max von Sydow) who once played for Germany to pit a team of Allied prisoners (including officer Michael Caine, a onetime British soccer pro, Brazil’s legendary Pele, and Yank bad-boy Sylvester Stallone) against the local German troops.
When his superiors get wind of the plan, they quickly see the worldwide propaganda potential and insist on expanding the plan to square off a p.o.w. ‘all star’ team drawn from imprisoned footballers throughout Europe, against the German national team.
Script [from a story by Yabo Yablonsky, Djordje Milicevic and Jeff Maguire] spends so much effort extolling man’s basic goodness and the values of selflessness, teamwork and fair play, that it frequently softens the action. Fortunately, director John Huston has such a firm grip on the dramatic line that does exist – and works some very good performances from the cast, particularly Caine – that the pic (lensed entirely in Hungary) survives intact.