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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Beginning with the last desperate fall of France, Britain now stands
It will only be a matter of time before even her invasion begins. But unlike other countries of Europe, a 30-mile wide channel stands moat around that final bastion. Any successful invasion must entail a naval assault and to accomplish it will require air superiority. The Royal Air Force must be defeated first.
This movie guides us through those desperate weeks in the summer of 1940, when the 'Few' remained steadfast against overwhelming odds. We see the confident, undefeated Nazis gathering for their task. Whist at home, the inadequate, doubtful defenders brace for the storm to come.
Engaging a British cast to die for, the entire campaign is handled with both ruthlessness and compassion. It's a long movie that enables every aspect of the conflict to be outlined. We see the relentless attacks upon British Fighter Command. We see the determined defence from the standpoint of fliers, their families, the high-command and tactical support. On it goes. One by one, familiar faces vanish in combat, as inexperienced cannon-fodder take their place. Despite the greater success of allied fighters, their losses are unbearable. They're outnumbered 4:1.
Then, a miracle happens. A lost bomber pilot jettisons his payload, unaware that it has fallen on London, despite a tacit agreement between Britain and Germany that neither will bomb the other's capital. Churchill responds by ordering a raid upon Berlin. Hitler is so incensed by this outrage despite knowing it to be retaliatory that he orders his bombers to concentrate on London and thus 'The Blitz' begins. These events actually happened.
This change in strategy altered the outcome of the war. An RAF on the very threshold of collapse is left to rebuild, re-arm and retrain as London is sacrificed to the Luftwaffe. For German bombers, raiding with impunity, it looks as if Britain is finished.
Then, after 2 months, using a new tactic of massed-attack called 'Big-wing', suddenly swarms of British fighters fall upon the astonished German bombers. Without fighter-support and with their own gun-magazines depleted, on their return-run home they are picked-off by marauding squadrons of Hurricanes, re-armed and refuelled after their first sorties.
The balance of power is tilted. Hitler's 'Operation Sealion' is deferred indefinitely. Instead he attacks Russia, and his doom is sealed.
Quite how the makers of this movie amassed so many aircraft of the right vintage is hard to imagine. Purists may spot flaws in their choice, but there is no denying the bewildering numbers, or the astonishing aerial conflicts. At times, the battles absolutely mesmerise and it is easy to see why George Lucas found such inspiration for his later 'Star Wars' battle scenes around the 'Death Star'.
Fatigue vies with ferocity on the ground and in the sky. Doubts taint determination in the corridors of command. Every aspect of this conflict is addressed at some stage. Only 'The Longest Day' is a match for such a comprehensive overview.
And as the battle progresses and the few become less, tragedy is reflected in incidental music as the initially stirring score develops an increasingly desperate tenor. It's done with amazing subtlety.
We also see the conflict from enemy perspectives. Once again a stirring, almost romantic German number hosts the confident flyers revelling in their soon-to-be-stifled jubilation as the seemingly inexhaustible RAF keep on claiming their colleagues. Goering gradually moves from smug expectation to petulant disappointment.
It's history, and it's all there, laid out in wonderful authenticity. The cream of British acting make use of a decent script and excellent directing in a movie that could never be equalled let alone improved. This was a decisive moment in our lives that was fought with typical modesty and courage and represented here with all the fidelity of a history book, and all the drama of the best that cinema has to offer.
A classic? You damn-well bet!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Battle of Britain (1969) was about the famous battle of the British air
space during the first half of World War II. The Germans wanted to
nullify the infamous Royal Air Force and punish the British Isles. But
the Luftwaffe didn't expect to go be beaten back and defeated by a
combined allied air force. This was one of the most important battles
that decided the fate of the free world. In order to capture England,
the Germans had to secure the airways. You can only do such much
hit-and-run bombing attacks.
The film makers did an adequate job of recreating the battle. I was impressed by the aerial dogfights and detailed air warfare tactics. The only problem I had was with the uneven acting from the cast. The movie was recently restored on d.v.d. I haven't seen this movie in awhile and when I watch the new transfer and print of the film I'll re-review the restored version.
Michael Caine heads an all-star cast including Trevor Howard,
Christopher Plummer, Harry Andrews, and Sir Laurence Oliver as this Guy
Hamilton directed film attempts to recreate the historical account of
how the Royal Air Force(RAF) valiantly defended Britain from the Nazi
air assault of 1940, which cost the lives of many fine airmen, as well
as a huge number of civilian deaths along with Airplane and property
destruction that cost England dearly, though which ultimately turned
the tide against Hitler's Germany.
Though the aerial dogfights between the RAF and Luftwaffe are impressively recreated, this film is otherwise disappointing, as it never creates an involving story with its characters, or any kind of compelling dramatic story, which is strange, since the potential was there. A good documentary on the subject may be more interesting and informative than this, unfortunately.
1968 through 1971 were watershed years for fans of war movies -- some
good, some bad. _Battle of Britain_ is one of the best!
Others of note released in those years were _Patton_, _Tora! Tora! Tora!_, _Catch-22_, and _The Bridge at Remagen_.
Those were the 25th anniversary years of the second world war -- probably the cause for the glut -- and in many ways these films are the pinnacle of all-star, big-budget war movies. They all had "state of the art" special effects -- many more convincing than the CGI crap in _Pearl_Harbor_ -- including model work, animation, blue-screen, and other effects that have been lost, since the advent of CGI.
But _Battle of Britain_ topped them all in that department. The flying sequences have never been surpassed, although those in _Tora! Tora! Tora!_ and _Catch-22_ come close. Each claimed, during filming, to be the "World's 11th" -- or 15th, or 3rd, or 22nd -- "Largest Air Force," which was more than likely just studio PR. But just how many Spits, Hurricanes, and Messerschmitts they assembled for this film is amazing (even though repetition of shots magnifies the three flyable Hurricanes into at least a full squadron). The Heinkels, repainted in something approaching Luftwaffe coloring, are amazing to see en masse, even when they're only parked on the tarmac. They really put to shame the 12 or 15 B-25's put together for _Catch-22_. The only comparable sight I can recall are the lines of B-17's in _Twelve O'Clock High_, and many of those shots were just stock.
There are shots in _Battle of Britain_ that still take one's breath away -- the massed Heinkels and Messerschmitts, the incredible dogfighting sequences.
For the fan of WWII air-war movies, this one can't be beat. Highly recommended, even if the history has been tweaked to fit the film.
Let me first say that I am and always have been an aircraft nut;
especially WWII. I first saw this film on release at my local premiere
in Margate, where, as an Air Cadet, I was privileged to be part of the
Guard of Honour for several of the real Battle of Britain pilots
including Robert Stanford Tuck.
Even then, as a less than critical 14-year old, there were certain parts of the film that were obviously very poor. Now, as a highly critical grumpy old man(!) I still see them. Seeing Spitfires and Hurricanes still thrills me, and a lot of the aerial scenes in the film are of the highest order, so what's wrong with it?
The story or lack of - very piecemeal and unevenly paced. Susannah York's hairstyle - so out of place for 1940. The Christopher Plummer - Susannah York romance. Susannah York in her entirety; some of the worst acting in a film riddled with it. The obvious model Stukas and anything else that needed to be destroyed. The actors. Some of Britain's finest but all way too old for fighter pilots. (Michael Caine -37; Christopher Plummer -40; Robert Shaw -42; Barry Foster -48; Edward Fox -31.) Even Ian McShane who was only 27 would have been an old man to the rest of the pilots. The Battle of Britain was fought in the air by boys - on both sides.
It is all such a pity because although today's technology could improve the effects a thousand-fold they will never get such an armada of aircraft together again, even though, paradoxically, there are now many more airworthy Spitfires and Hurricanes than there were in 1969. Any future Battle of Britain film will be made mainly with CGI. They had one chance to make an outstanding film comemmorating the people and aircraft that took part in one of Britain's defining moments of the 20th Century and they blew it.
Shame. Great shots of wonderful aircraft but as a historical portrayal or film entertainment - forget it.
There's not much in the way of character development in this film. It's
not that kind of film, so let's get that out of the way at the start.
Michael Caine, Laurence Olivier, Robert Shaw, and Christopher Plummer
(among many others) are on hand for their star power and charisma, but
don't expect awards-worthy performances. This movie, as the title
suggests, is about the Battle of Britain, so you should expect
Spitfires, dogfights, the Blitz, and lots of pompous Prussian military
And that's exactly what you get. The makers of the film assembled a huge fleet of vintage aircraft from around the world: many Spitfires were restored to airworthy condition just for the movie and are still flying today because of it; Messerschmitts and Heinkels were loaned by the Spanish Air Force and have gone on to star in films and air shows; a trio of Hurricanes make a rare appearance. This might only be of interest to aviation enthusiasts or history buffs, but so what: it's an historic film, the only occasion outside of newsreels that you'll ever see these aircraft in their element, and it's breathtaking.
The plot follows the basic timeline of the Battle. After Dunkirk, the British withdraw to their island and Hitler contemplates his options. Eventually, after a few perfunctory scenes set the stage, the Luftwaffe launches its attack. The outnumbered pilots of the Royal Air Force fight back against impossible odds. Young, inexperienced men are thrown into combat with a short life expectancy. Untried Polish volunteers acquit themselves rather well, in a couple humorous scenes. Olivier, as Air Chief Marshal Dowding, lends gravitas to the situation, while his German counterpart, Goering, frets and struts and intimidates his underlings.
There's plenty missing, but there's plenty to like. The stars all do their bit for queen and country, and the attention to detail is superb. The narrative often seems to skip bits and pieces, and leaves several characters hanging...but as I said, this isn't about the characters so much as the moment in history that they happen to be passing through.
The "Battle of Britain" was one of the most critical battles of World
War II, and was fought against Germany by the RAF. The German Luftwaffe
planes way outnumbered what the RAF had -- something like 640 vs. 2500
- astonishing - but the RAF went ahead anyway to keep Germany from
invading their country.
I'm not a World War II expert, though I'm sure there are plenty of them who have seen this film and posted a review, so I'll leave the critiques about whether or not this was a realistically told story to them.
In my own opinion, it was a lot of stars without much to do and some fantastic aerial battles. The stars include Michael Caine, Trevor Howard (replacing Rex Harrison), Harry Andrews, Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Christopher Plummer, Ian McShane, Curt Jergens, Kenneth More, Nigel Patrick, Michael Redgrave, Robert Shaw, Susannah York, Robert Flemyng, and Edward Fox. Dirk Bogarde must have been on vacation. Timothy Dalton auditioned for a role but did not get it; Alec Guinness was to play a role that was eventually cut from the script. An astonishing cast.
Characters therefore weren't fully developed - there were so many of them - but the real story is in the skies where the battles rage, with some very exciting flight sequences as well as some glorious scenery. Filming took place in England and Spain.
For some history of the film, I suggest the "trivia" section here, which goes into the collecting of the planes and cites scenes based on real incidents.
If you like World War II films, this sprawling tribute to the RAF is for you.
This Movie has to be the most influential of my life. At the age of
eight after seeing this film, I vowed to myself that one day I would
pilot a Spitfire. It took over 30 years, but I did it! I can now
sympathise with the rookie pilot who has a few hours on "Spits" and is
less able than his more experience colleagues - and who later "buys it"
in battle. The Spitfire is fairly easy to fly - but very difficult to
I have to agree with Winson Churchill that this was "Their finest hour" the fate of the country and the free world rested on the RAF fighter pilots - about 2,500 men. If we had lost the Luftwaffe would have destroyed the Navy and Britain would have fallen.
The special effects do show the age of the film - the good news is that a lot of the flying shots are actual aircraft! The film tries to be historically accurate, made in the days before Hollywood decided to re-write history! Most of the actors remembered the war years and so wore accurate clothing.
One of the set piece bombing sequences was filmed at RAF Duxford. Where a hangar was destroyed without permission! The balance of the film is right - not all Germans were Nazi's. Goering is shown to be a political animal, without the objective realism that a true general needs.
The music by Ron Goodwin is excellent, especially - dare I say it - the Luftwaffe March, "Aces High".
In short the only criticism of this film is its age, now days the special effects would be better - but it would be made to be too 21st Century and would have lost the atmosphere of the 1940's. A great film and should be part of everyones collection.
As far as I can tell this is a pretty accurate representation of what
actually happened. Of course there are a few funny anecdotes which we
can't be sure are factual but the basic plot is as history records it.
I grew up in the East end of London and to hear young boys of my Dad's generation looking up into the Sky's and proclaiming "einkels!" was just precious...:) My American Wife was having some difficulty with translation so we turned on the subtitles...Clearly the subtitle inscriber was also American as many of the words are plainly wrong!...Very entertaining all the same.
Not so good thing...Suzanna York was just plain awful but thankfully her role was small.
What an incredible battle this was...My hat is off to anyone who put their lives on the line during these dark days.
Watching the umpteenth rerun on UK TV, it strikes me that the TV print has been tweaked in recent years. Now, we have subtitles for nearly all the German language inserts and, for the first time in my memory, the Polish parts (they can be detected with a different type face and are yellow, as opposed to the white of the release print) Also some risible transcribing - e.g. 'Tomato Heinz..Tomato Heinz..' AND, over the end credits you get ALL of Sir William Walton's 'Battle of Britain March', not a brief segue to Ron Goodwin's. Tell me someone else has noticed this! Please!
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