Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Battle of Britain (1969)

"So don't threaten or dictate to us until you're marching up Whitehall. And even then we won't listen."

Well, that was strangely underwhelming. I'm British. I hate the Nazis. The real, historical Battle of Britain puts fire in my belly. So why is it that this film leaves my belly distinctly cold?

What's especially surprising about this is that the film has an extraordinary cast- Lawrence Olivier is particularly superb as the drily realistic Hugh Dowding. Yet none of the characters have enough screen time, or are sufficiently fleshed out, to make a difference. Michael Caine, in particular, is wasted on s role that doesn't give him anything to do and then suddenly killed off. The only exception to all this is Curd Jurgens' charismatic general, and he's a bloody Nazi. Still, at least Ralph Richardson gets a magnificent speech in his cameo.

It must be said, too, that this film is a little deceptive in implying that Britain would have been finished if it had lost the Battle of Britain. It wouldn't. Just Google "Operation Sealion" for why. Large parts of the country are out of German bombers' air range, for a start, and there's the entire Home Fleet waiting at Scapa Flow, in an age where accurate bombing of ships was simply not a thing.

There are a couple of nice moments- I like the bit where German POWs are made to clear up their own mess- but sadly this is a film that fails to raise my patriotic heckles. A slow, meandering missed opportunity.

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