Battle of Britain Review

Authenticity is critical to any film striving to recreate historical events. Battle of Britain is incredibly accurate. From the actual planes used in the dogfights down the smallest of details on the uniforms, this one feels incredibly real. Unfortunately, nothing holds these action scenes together, and the overlong dialogue scenes actually take away from the dramatic flight footage.

The cast is loaded in this film, and that’s obvious from the front of the Bl-ray cover. Fourteen names are listed as the stars, and that means not enough screen time for many of them to develop. Characters feels lumped together, and with a few exceptions such as Michael Caine, Christopher Plummer, and Laurence Olivier, the rest of crew is woefully represented.

A romance between Susannah York and Plummer is a perfect example of how things go astray. It’s featured in only a few scenes, barely scrapes the surface of what appears to be a complex relationship, and then expects to lead to an emotional moment late in the film. It doesn’t work.

That said, the aerial battles are worth it. Unlike the modern special effects-laden war films like Flyboys or Pearl Harbor, there’s a strong sense of realism in Britain. Planes maneuver realistically, and instead of building false drama via the direction, the story in the air unfolds naturally. Special effect shots come off incredibly well, especially a few miniature shots. It’s a shame there are so few as it could have made the bombing of London truly spectacular.

On the other hand, given the limited character development on the ground, a lot of potential drama is lost. Behind the flight masks, it’s hard to tell actors apart or whether a key part of the cast was shot down or someone purely there for the fight. These scenes feel random at times, and even redundant.

Battle for Britain isn’t a case of age catching up with the film. It’s an overwrought war drama on a large scale, but not one the story can keep up with. It’s a shame modern war films can’t deliver the same style of authenticity once in the air, but thankfully they’ve moved on from scripting like this.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 


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If you’ve ever wondered how edge enhancement can destroy a transfer, here’s the proof you’re looking for. Every frame of film has some form of halo around an object, typically around the actors heads. It’s appalling.

The artificial sharpening does lead to an overall clean look, and certain shots can be spectacularly detailed. Color follows the usual Technicolor style of the day, and doesn’t look that faded. Contrast is excellent, delivering solid blacks and excellent whites. Minor print damage is noticeable in the form of white specks.

Finally, there are certain shots that look simply awful, even below the DVD releases. While the opening credits are forgivable, nearly all shots involving the Germans look awful, lacking detail, and using incorrect color. These usually only last a few moments, but it’s distracting when compared to the crisp, clean presentation elsewhere.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

The DTS-HD Master included here is surprisingly active in all channels. The planes effectively move through the soundfield, despite coming from a mono source (also included). Given the age, much of the sound sits in a mid-range, struggling when it hits the highs, and barely delivering on the low end (and even then it’s sporadic). The score is mixed significantly higher than the rest of the effects, annoyingly requiring volume adjustment.

There’s a standard Dolby track which includes a score from Sir William Walton. There’s no explanation on the disc as to why a different soundtrack exists, but this track is mixed much lower and dialogue sounds even worse than it does with the DTS.

Audio ★★★☆☆ 

The disc doesn’t even offer a menu selection for extras, despite a 2-disc set released a few years ago on DVD.

Extras ☆☆☆☆☆ 


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