Four children (the Swallows) on holiday in the Lake District sail on their own to an island and start a war with rival children (the Amazons). In the meantime, a mysterious man on a houseboat accuses them of a crime they did not commit.
About two different groups of children who encounter one another on a small piece of land in a lake which they both live by. Both groups try to claim the land as theirs and do so role playing as two sets of enemy pirates. Whilst this happens they encounter another boat and a stranger, they must now work together to work out who he is and why he is there, but have they got themselves involved in something much bigger?
The espionage elements added to the film are inspired by the fact that the author of the book, Arthur Ransome, had actually worked for British Intelligence, spying on the Russians. The code name "S76" that appears in the film was Arthur Ransome's actual code name. See more »
Mr Jackson (Harry Enfield) is frequently shown with a pipe in his mouth yet the pipe never appears to never be lit as we do not see him puffing on the pipe or smoke arising from it. Whilst this could be said to show a 21st century sensibility towards smoking in a childrens film we do however see a character smoking a cigarette at Portsmouth railway station earlier on. See more »
It takes a brave man to pull the trigger... but it takes an even braver man not too
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"We love this classic book but don't think it's exciting enough, so...."
...we're adding a whole new plot"
That's always a sign that a production is heading for disaster. If you think the book isn't exciting, don't use it; find some other material. If you think you don't have the ability to convey to an audience what you find exciting about it, find another career.
'Swallows and Amazons' works as a book - and still does, nearly 90 years after it was written - precisely because it is concerned only with the children and their doings. No adult POV is included to give us a perspective on the children's outlook, their emotions and imaginative world; we only see what matters to them and we see it with their eyes. This makes perfect sense to children, and it takes adults back to our own childhood when we too found our own fantasy games far more important and meaningful than anything adults did. I couldn't see how a subplot about 'real' 1930s Soviet spies could possibly be introduced into the plot without making the children's pirate adventures and sea battles seem suddenly trivial and, well, childish.
And sadly, that's exactly what happens. Philippa Lowthorpe works hard to create a sense of danger and excitement in the childhood adventure of unaccompanied sailing, and camping on an island, and very nice too. But the effort is pointless when you throw in real gun-toting nasties kidnapping people and chasing them along trains; that just makes the children's 'pirate wars' fantasy look piffling and tiresome.
A real pity. You wonder why they bothered, and why anybody didn't advise them not to.
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