When it comes to war movies I put "Operation Crossbow" in a group called interesting more than entertaining. The interest comes from the fact that not only was it based on the real mission "Crossbow" but certain elements have a grittiness to them which weren't always present in big war movies. But whilst it has these various elements it doesn't quite come together as a coherent movie or at least the coherent action movie that it aspires to.
With intelligence aware that the Germans are developing long range weapons they set about trying to uncover exactly what they are and how close the Germans are to deploying them. To do so they pick a trio of men Lt. John Curtis (George Peppard - How the West Was Won), Phil Bradley (Jeremy Kemp) and Robert Henshaw (Tom Courtenay - Billy Liar) to go undercover as Dutch engineers in order to be recruited to the top secret German missile facility deep underground. But things don't go to plan as between poor alias choice, an alias's ex wife showing up and a double crossing German puts their mission in danger.
So as already mentioned "Operation Crossbow" is based upon fact or at least the fact there was a real mission called "Crossbow" and focuses upon the British attempt at destroying Germany's building of the V-1 flying bomb and the V-2 rocket. Now what we see is a collection of different things from the initial aerial intelligence as proof of these weapons was looked for and the bombing of these test facilities. At the same time we also see the difficulties that that Germans had with the V-1 leading to loss of life in testing the flying bomb. All of which is interesting especially with arguments on both sides as British intelligence disagreed on whether a long range bomb could exist whilst German Officer's argued over using pilots to test the flying bomb.
But all of this which almost takes up half of the movie is a lead in to a trio of men being hand picked to go undercover as Dutch scientists so that they could infiltrate the top secret research facility. And again it is a collection of different things as we witness them undertaking some parachute training, being drilled with their new identities, difficulties when they arrive at their destinations and much more before any of them actually gets to the research facility. Again it is all interesting especially when we get are first twist which is both surprising and brilliant but it doesn't really flow. It is during this section that we meet top billed Sophia Loren who in truth doesn't have a huge part to play and it seems that whilst the character is of minor importance the inclusion of Loren and her top billing may have had more to do with her being married to producer Carlo Ponti.
All of which eventually leads to two of are spies infiltrating the research facility and this is where "Operation Crossbow" finally finds its rhythm as it becomes more of a traditional Hollywood war movie. This final section is pretty obvious as we enter the cliche element of spies in the middle of Germany and a research facility which needs destroying. But it is both entertaining and interesting as it finds the right balance of information and action.
But all of this means that ultimately "Operation Crossbow" doesn't quite work as an entertaining war movie but more of an interesting one. Having said that the various performances are good and both George Peppard and Jeremy Kemp do a nice job in what are really the lead roles whilst both Tom Courtenay and Anthony Quayle are excellent in their lesser roles. And whilst I question Sophia Loren's top billing she certainly adds a touch of glamour to what is other wise a very dour movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Operation Crossbow" is an interesting war movie which sadly lacks the flow to make it truly entertaining. But it is still worth a watch because of various elements are grittier than what was the norm in this sort of 1960's war movie.