Sylvester Stallone ticks a box in Escape to Victory. A proven box-office draw, his presence guarantees a certain amount of interest from the otherwise cool-on-football American market. Like Steve McQueen before him, the star also lifts his allied internment film from the staid and faintly comedic situations of The Wooden Horse into the state of bombast seen in something like The Great Escape.
Regardless of whether or not the idea rings true historically, British prisoner of war films tend to revolve around bait-and-switches that have more in common with knockabout boarding school capers than life and death struggle. Accordingly Stallone's interloping brings a sense of desperation to Victory. While everyone else concerns themselves with training for the upcoming, all-consuming football game, Sly's character Hatch takes time to run angles on the guards, looking for a chance to slip out of the camp.
Stallone's is an outsider perspective, to the point of mostly existing within his own sectioned-off, VIP story. While Michael Caine and Max Von Sydow wrap themselves up in romantic notions like sportsmanship and post-war European brotherhood, Stallone has leveraged himself a subplot that takes him to Paris and gets him romancing Carole Laure's resistance contact. Since Director John Huston and screenwriters Evan Jones and Yabo Yablonsky are more interested in the big game as an opportunity for escape rather than an event unto itself, Stallone's contractually mandated holiday does a lot of the dramatic lifting.