I was there, a kid who lived through the Blitz and my father volunteered for the RAF and served in the Far East - I guess that makes me biased. Much attention is given by Hollywood to D-Day. What people like Leonard Maltin forget, in his snide comment ("another 'spot the star' WW2 epic") in his Movie & Video Guide, is that if the June 6 invasion had failed another one could have been launched within months; but if the Battle of Britain had been lost ("on the outcome of this battle depends the future of ... civilization" - W. Churchill) there would have been no D-Day because there would have been nowhere to launch it from. Maltin's problem, like so many American critics of foreign films, is probably that there were no American stars performing mythical heroics - no James Garner or Steve McQueen with spurious roles as in "The Great Escape." The film faithfully portrayed the events and characters: Robert Shaw's "Skipper" character is a great representation of Squadron Leader "Sailor" Malan; Laurence Olivier spent countless hours studying archival films of Air Chief Marshall Dowding so as to portray him accurately, to the extent that people who knew "Stuffy" Dowding said it was like turning the clock back 30 years. The importance of radar was detailed, as was the hopeless leadership of Goering (wonderfully played by vaudeville artist Hein Riess). No mock heroics, just scared young men doing their best against impossible odds. Did you spot the realistic touch made by including an actual horribly burned airman? Once more, consider the consequences of Britain losing this battle: with no Western front to guard and the British laying down their arms in North Africa, Hitler would have been able to use his entire army, probably led by Rommel, and an undiminished air force, to quickly overpower Russia. After joining Japan, and with all of Europe and Asia under their control, with all the resources, raw materials, armament factories and the British Fleet, the last act would have been a 2-coast attack on, and defeat of, the USA. "The whole world, including the United States, cast into a new Dark Age" (Churchill). In summary: an exciting, technically-correct episodic docudrama of how less than 1,000 young men saved the world.
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