Sample Essay on Tonal Shift in the Movie “Five Graves of Cairo”

Tonal Shift in the Movie “Five Graves of Cairo”

            The movie, Five Graves of Cairo, exemplifies tonal mix in its flow and plot. The movie intertwines various film genres in order to achieve its impeccable story plot (Casper 25). The movie mixes genres ranging from drama, suspense, action, thriller, adventure and a western touch (Casper 45). The movie begins with a tone of adventure as Corporal Bramble is seeking for refuge in deserts of Cairo after he remains the lone survivor, last man standing in a fierce battle with the German troops which were led by Field Marshal Rommel (Wilder, Scene 1). This gives the movie a western tone and touch since they are very critical towards warfare (Casper 39).

The movie, Five Graves of Cairo, has a historical touch. It is based on Adolf Hitler’s quest to conquer and rule the world. He had already started marshalling his troops towards Africa in order to spread his sphere of influence and gain global power and domination. Nevertheless, the Western powers led by the United States of America and the United Kingdom were not happy with his quest for global domination. They also started marshalling their troops into Africa to crash Adolf Hitler’s dream. In the end, Adolf Hitler was defeated by the U.S., Britain and their allies.

The movie is marked by shifting drama which also affects its tone. The movie begins with a tone of drama. As Bramble enters the hotel run by the French, he masquerades as Davos, a waiter who was killed in a bombing by the Germans to avoid being captured and killed by the German troops who were headed his way (Wilder, Scene 2). The movie then shifts to adventure as Bramble uses his position to gather military intelligence that was required by the British Army. There is a tone of suspense in the movie as the British Army intended to dig up the place where the German troops and commanders hid their weapons (Wilder, Scene 4). The German troops have encoded their language for security reasons. They use abbreviations, acronyms and shortened words to communicate their orders.

The Germans have used the abbreviation “YPT” for the place where they have hidden their weapons. Suspense continues as Bramble scratches his head to unlock the puzzle of the weapons’ ocation (Wilder, Scene 10). He finally unlocks puzzle and discovers that the Germans had hidden their weapons in five sites in Egypt, hence the title, “Five Graves of Cairo”. The palpable suspense is broken with the discovery of the five sites in Cairo. The adventure in the movie comes into light with the characterization of Corporal Bramble who steals a weapon from an Italian soldier, General Sebastiano (Wilder, Scene 7). He appreciated music and dance. Bramble had plans of using his position as Davos to assassinate Rommel. He planned to assassinate him while he ordered for food. Bramble planned to impersonate the waiter to deliver the food Rommel’s room (Wilder, Scene 5). This marks another episode of suspense as the audience are not sure whether he will succeed or fail. The latter outcome might have grave consequences to him and the war ahead.

However, Mouche, a French woman who was a staff member at the hotel steals the gun from Bramble (Wilder, Scene 11). Mouche uses her position to plead with Rommel to release her brother who was held at a concentration camp (Wilder, Scene 13). Rommel remains unshaken by her plea despite having saved his life.

The tone then shifts from cold to warm as it is revealed that Lieutenant Schwegler, Rommel’s aide, has began admiring Mouchefor her charm (Casper, p. 25). The Christmas scene of the movie is filled with suspense as Rommel’s Lieutenant discovers the body of Davos discovering that there was a mole (Bramble). A tone of action proceeds with the hunt down of Bramble, then Bramble kills the Lieutenant. The drama, action and thrill continue as the body of Davos is discovered from the rubbles (Wilder, Scene 15). Bramble had to kill him in order to survive and he also kills Schwegler who had found out. The air around the scenes of the deaths is sombre. In the end, Bramble runs to Cairo to deliver the information to the British Generals who then order the bombing of the five sites (Wilder, Scene 21). This transforms the tone to a triumphant one from the suspense created as the audience wonder if Bramble will really make it and deliver the all-important message.


Works Cited

Casper, Drew. Hollywood film 1963-1976: years of revolution and reaction. John Wiley &

Sons, 2011.

Wilder, Billy (Director). Five Graves of Cairo. 1943. Para