BFS Video // 2010 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 22nd, 2011
I am a complete sucker for World War II documentaries and specifically tales of heroism from the air theater. The ship-to-ship combat between the Allies and the Axis that took place is something the world will likely never see again (unless the future that Battlefield Earth warns us about transpires). The Battle of Britain focuses on one of the most pivotal air confrontations in the war, an engagement that quite literally meant the survival of England. It's the story of the RAF pressed into duty against insane odds; here are men -- strike that, kids -- piling into single-engine airplanes and fighting for their lives against the battle-hardened Luftwaffe, most of them having only logged in 10 hours of flight time.
Ewan McGregor (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace) and his brother and RAF pilot Colin McGregor decide to explore this seminal event and embark on a tour of discovery. They look at the actual places used in the operation, interview some of the surviving pilots, observe a re-creation of the day of the final engagement and generally sing the praises of the Britain and her bad-ass pilots.
And you know, count me in as one of the big admirers. The Battle of Britain is absolutely fantastic, a gorgeously-produced, feature-length documentary that is rich with information and profoundly moving. Granted, I may be pre-disposed to misting up over stories of valor from the armed forces (our guys or our allies), but I defy you not to be affected by the recollections of the pilots or the culminating tour at the Battle of Britain memorial.
The McGregor brothers are fantastic guides, with Colin's expertise nicely supplementing Ewan's charisma. The relationship of the two brothers comes through and gives the production an added dose of sentimentality. The pay-off is the surprise Colin has in store for his younger brother: informing him that he'll get to ride in a Spitfire for a formation run. It was an impromptu offering, captured on film and Ewan's authentic reaction is priceless. Two guys with an abiding love for this history, and it shows.
The engagement is tracked chronologically, using real footage from the battles, clips of Churchill's speeches, breakdowns of the German and British tactics and interviews. The token historian fleshes out the story well but the real heartstring-pullers are the chats with the pilots, especially a conversation between two of the surviving "few" and the McGregors. They chat over a couple of pints and it's mesmerizing.
Look, if you have even a sliver of interest in the subject matter, I implore you with every fiber of my being to track this down. The Battle of Britain occupies the very upper echelon of World War II presentations and deserves to be viewed by as many people as possible.
"Never was so much owed by so many to so few." A sober reminder in this age of whiny entitlement.
The DVD: clean 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, 2.0 stereo, and no extras (which is the lone sore spot in an otherwise superlative release).
Not Guilty. RAF FTW.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BFS Video
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated