Battle of Britain (1969) 4.19/5 (3)


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Rating: The Good – 77.3
Genre: War
Duration: 132 mins
Director: Guy Hamilton
Stars: Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Christopher Plummer

“Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.” A spectacular account of the first entirely aerial battle in history as well as the first significant defeat for Hitler’s war machine. Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, Robert Shaw, Ian McShane, Laurence Olivier (as the Air Marshall), and a host of other big names play the various representatives of one of the most valiant displays of skill and fortitude ever displayed in battle. All the actors involved do their shift with nobody really getting the opportunity to stand out due to short amount of screen time each character gets and the fact that everyone was playing second fiddle to the aerial battles.

Guy Hamilton ties it all together impressively allowing the audience to grasp the scope and magnitude of the various air strategies and logistical requirements that were employed on a day by day basis. The momentum does drop at points which in some ways reflects the contrasting lulls and hysteria of combat but it doesn’t make for the best film viewing. That said, the splendid choreography and stunt work of the planes, once the fighting does get going, offsets those minor issues. The climactic battle in particular is elegantly captured in a suitably rousing and operatic style and even by today’s standards, it’ll have the audience quietly astounded.

The fact that the German approach to the battle is depicted in detail (not to mention in actual German) is a real boon to the tone of the film for it not only bolsters the technical angle taken in the movie, but it also gives us a more fleshed out human perspective. Overall, Battle of Britain is an admirable and nicely spirited WWII movie that does justice to the technical and human effort that went into Britain’s lone fight against the Germans in 1940 while also offering great entertainment to anyone who loves a great film spectacle.

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