Battle of Britain
Featuring a "big stellar cast" (Variety), including Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Laurence Olivier, Christopher Plummer, Michael Redgrave, Robert Shaw, Susannah York and Edward Fox, Battle of Britain is a spectacular retelling of a true story that shows courage at its inspiring best. Few defining moments can change the outcome of war. But when the outnumbered Royal Air Force defied insurmountable odds in engaging the German Luftwaffe, it may well have altered the course of history!
A Bridge too Far An epic film that "re-creates in stunning detail one of the most disastrous battles of World War II" (The Hollywood Reporter), A Bridge Too Far is a spectacular war picture. Painstakingly recreated on actual battlefield locations and boasting a remarkable cast that includes Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins, Sir Laurence Olivier and Robert Redford, A Bridge Too Far accurately recaptures the monumental scope, excitement and danger behind one of the biggest military gambles in history. In September 1944, flush with success after the Normandy Invasion, the Allies confidently launched Operation Market Garden, a wild scheme intended to put an early end to the fighting by invading Germany and smashing the Reich's war plants. But a combination of battlefield politics, faulty intelligence, bad luck and even worse weather led to disaster beyond the Allies' darkest fears.
World War I aviation action gets an impressive digital upgrade in Flyboys, a welcome addition to the "dogfight" sub-genre that includes such previous war-in-the-air films like Hell's Angels, Wings, and The Blue Max. While those earlier films had the advantage of real and genuinely dangerous flight scenes (resulting, in some cases, in fatal accidents during production), Flyboys takes full (and safe) advantage of the digital revolution, with intensely photo-realistic recreations of WWI aircraft, authentic period structures, and CGI environments requiring a total of 850 digital effects shots, resulting in an abundance of amazing images, many of them virtually indistinguishable from reality. Unfortunately, the film's technical achievement is more impressive than its screenplay, which conventionally and predictably tells the fact-based story, set in France in 1916, of the daring young pilots of the Lafayette Escadrille, a pioneering French air-combat unit that welcomed American enlistees prior to the United States' entry into the war.
There's a familiar cliché to match every thrilling scene of aerial combat, but director Tony Bill manages to keep it all interesting, from the romance between a young American maverick (James Franco) and a pretty French girl (newcomer Jennifer Decker) to the exciting action in the air, which includes a stock variety of heroes (many of them composites of real-life WWI pilots) and an intimidating villain known only as "The Black Falcon," whose Fokker Dr-1 triplane (one of many in the film) recalls the exploits of German "ace of aces" Manfred von Richtofen, the dreaded "Red Baron" of legend. With impeccable production values that will impress even the most nit-picking aviation buffs, Flyboys (like Superman Returns and Apocalypto, also released in 2006) was also one of the first feature films to be shot with Panavision's state-of-the-art Genesis digital cameras, resulting in beautiful images that meet or exceed the visual nuance of film. Flyboys also benefits from painstaking attention to physical detail, making it easier to forgive its shortcomings as a generic and formulaic slice of romanticized history. So while some viewers may have wished for a more realistic and grown-up depiction of the Lafayette Escadrille, it's safe to say that Flyboys will be thrilling its target audience for many years to come. --Jeff Shannon