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Castles in the Sky (2014)

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It is the mid-1930s and the storm clouds of WWII were forming in Germany. This films charts the work of Robert Watson Watt - the pioneer of Radar - and his hand-picked team of eccentric yet... See full summary »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Robert Watson Watt
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Margaret Watson Watt
Arran Tulloch ...
Pat
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Helen - Secretary
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Henry Tizard
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Frederick Lindemann
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Albert Rowe
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Arnold 'Skip' Wilkins
Stephen Chance ...
Scientist
Carl Heap ...
Scientist
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Edward 'Taffy' Bowen
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Higgy
Joe Bone ...
Bainbridge Bell
Nick Elliott ...
Navy Guard
...
Winston Churchill
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Storyline

It is the mid-1930s and the storm clouds of WWII were forming in Germany. This films charts the work of Robert Watson Watt - the pioneer of Radar - and his hand-picked team of eccentric yet brilliant meteorologists as they struggle to turn the concept of Radar into a workable reality. Hamstrung by a tiny budget, seemingly insurmountable technical problems and even a spy in the camp, Watson Watt also has to deal with marital problems as he chases his dream. By 1939, Watson Watt and his team have developed the world's first Radar system along the south east coast of England. A system that, in 1940, proved pivotal in winning the Battle of Britain. Written by John

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23 June 2014 (UK)  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

The aircraft in the initial test is of the right era but the wrong type - it looks like a de Havilland Rapide, while it should be a Handley Page Heyford, something in which the film makers had little choice, since not a single example of a Heyford survives, flying or not. See more »

Goofs

Whilst wiring the 1st machine the wire colours are blue and brown. At the time, these would have been red and black. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Period Drama About the Value of Community
11 September 2014 | by (London) – See all my reviews

For many switching on to this drama - as other reviewers have indicated

  • the chief attraction of CASTLES IN THE SKY lies in watching Eddie


Izzard performing a straight role as the co-inventor of radar, Robert Watson Watt. Sometimes his Scottish accent seems a little too broad, almost as if he were trying to hard, but on the whole he gives a creditable characterization of a scientist for whom the word "no" spurred him on to even greater efforts to make his device work, despite budgetary restrictions.

Gilles MacKinnon's production contains several other noteworthy elements. It makes intelligent use of symbolism - for example, the tie, which is here used as a representative of Establishment values, the kind of thing Watt and his co-workers explicitly repudiate. Whitehall mandarins Albert Rowe (Julian Rhind Tutt) and Henry Tizard (Alex Jennings) wear ties; the only time Watt sports one is when he is expecting a visit from the Air Ministry to inspect his progress. As soon as they leave, he rips it off. There is also the symbolism of catching - on at least three occasions Watt catches a tennis or a ping-pong ball, at moments when he makes a scientific breakthrough, suggesting success.

The late Thirties atmosphere of grim austerity is cleverly evoked through lighting: Watt's scientists have to work in primitive conditions, often with antiquated equipment, as Whitehall refuses to give them sufficient subsidy to expand their operations. The group works together in ill-lit rooms, often for long hours at a stretch. With the onset of war, the atmosphere becomes even grimmer; there is a memorable sequence where Watt is shown climbing up to ground level from the Government's defense bunker in a stone passageway green with mildew.

Thematically speaking, CASTLES IN THE SKY not only celebrates Watt's achievement but shows the strength of group loyalty at a time of severe national crisis. The scientists are totally committed to the project, and when one of them (Iain McKee) is exposed as a mole, supplying information to Professor Lindemann (David Hayman), he is ruthlessly cast aside. When their task is finally accomplished, no one really takes the credit; they believe they have been working for the national interest.

Sometimes Ian Kershaw's script seems a little anachronistic (the phrased "loved ones," to describe one's nearest and dearest was definitely not in circulation in the Thirties), but CASTLES IN THE SKY is nonetheless a value historical recreation of a defining moment in British history.


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