Starring: Richard Todd, Michael Redgrave, Basil Sydney
Director: Michael Anderson
Running Time: 125 mins
The Dam Busters is a British film about the true story of 617 Squadron, an RAF team who undertook a daring attack on three German dams at the height of World War Two, using the revolutionary technology devised by engineer Barnes Wallis, who created the bouncing bomb.
Of all the Great British war films, The Dam Busters is easily the most legendary, and it’s easy to see why. This is a film that combines a fascinating true story about the war with exciting tension and action, and uplifting and inspiring characters, making it a hugely enjoyable film, whilst keeping an air of seriousness as it looks to respect the people who risked their lives for this daring mission.
That’s the thing that makes this more than just a jingoistic war movie. Yes, it’s a celebration of the incredible spirit that the British put into the war, and it does make you feel immensely patriotic, but it’s still a grounded and sensible film that pays respect to the losses suffered in the mission, and throughout the war.
As a result, there are moments of some very strong emotional power here, from beginning to end, something that a lot of war movies, particularly many Hollywood ones, struggle to pull off. Even when we lose a minor character, the film brilliantly portrays the effects that that can have on a squadron, which is what I felt made this stand out as something more than a simple war movie.
However, there is still a lot to really enjoy about The Dam Busters, mostly thanks to the inspiring story. As I said, the film celebrates the Great British war effort and the ingenuity of so many people in helping to bring the Second World War to an end, and it makes for a very uplifting watch. The characters, despite always facing great opposition, even on their own side, battle hard to contribute to the war effort, and in the form of our two main characters, engineer Barnes Wallis and Wing Commander Guy Gibson, you feel a real sense of pride and joy for their persistence and bravery throughout.
Another thing that’s so great about this film is the action. When we get round to the actual bombing mission on the German dams, the film gains an extra layer of tension and excitement on top of its fascinating story. We follow our heroes in their Lancaster bombers as they attempt the daring mission with very little preparation ahead of time, but it makes for a hugely exciting conclusion to the film.
The climax is the inspiration for the Death Star attack at the end of Star Wars, and it plays out exactly like that. Our heroes aren’t invincible as they go to attack the enemy, and there are casualties, but the fast-paced and suspenseful final act makes for a thoroughly captivating watch.
Overall, The Dam Busters is a fantastic war film. It’s got action, suspense and inspiring characters that give you an overwhelmingly triumphant feeling, but it also keeps itself grounded alongside that all with emotional power and respectful tributes to the real story of the mission, and that’s why I’m giving The Dam Busters a 7.7.