1943. Hitler wants to top the rescue of Mussolini from a mountain retreat in Italy. He and Himmler, Chief of the German State Police, concoct a scheme to kidnap Winston Churchill. They tell Military Intelligence to study the possibilities. Colonel Radl learns from a German agent in England that the Prime Minister is planning a weekend at Sudley Constable, an isolated Norfolk village near the coast. He is given full authority by Hitler to prepare for and carry out the mission.
Liam Devlin, an Irish zealot working for the German counter-intelligence, is sent on ahead to the village to make connection with Joanna Grey (code name Starling) and prepare for the arrival of a crack paratroop division lead by Kurt Steiner, a German war hero. They will be disguised as Polish soldiers practicing war games in the village. The surprise factor signals success for the project. Then, oddly enough, an act of human kindness by one of the German paratroopers brings terror down upon them, the English villagers, and the American forces stationed nearby.
Tom Mankiewicz has adapted Jack Higgins' best-selling novel for the screen with only a few changes. There are elements of heroism, duplicity, and rich irony which makes this something more than ordinary adventure fare. For the first time in a movie of this type, the Germans are not depicted as barbarians. The acting is quite moving at times especially by that of Michael Caine as Colonel Steiner, a brave man who can follow his heart as well as his iron will. Robert Duvall is very convincing as the kidnap scheme's main strategist. Donald Sutherland adds some light touches to the story when he falls in love with one of the villagers played by Jenny Agutter. The last fifteen minutes of The Eagle Has Landed are action packed and filled with the kind of surprises and reversals which are at the nub of all good suspense stories.