Starring: Michael Caine, Robert Shaw, Christopher Plummer
Director: Guy Hamilton
Running Time: 131 mins
Battle Of Britain is a British film about the true story of the heroic pilots in the RAF and other Allied air forces who fought off a threatening aerial invasion from Nazi Germany during the summer of 1940.
Amongst all the classic post-war films, Battle Of Britain isn’t the most exciting or engrossing. Despite that, it’s an impressively accurate depiction of the Battle of Britain, and is still hugely fun to watch, with some massively entertaining and visually spectacular aerial battle sequences throughout that still hold up brilliantly.
But first off, I want to talk about what is arguably this film’s main appeal to audiences: its cast. Starring the likes of Michael Caine, Robert Shaw, Christopher Plummer, Laurence Olivier, Ian McShane and more, it’s one of the most legendary ensembles ever seen on screen. However, it’s not quite as effective as you’d hope. Whilst there are so many great talents on display, nobody really shines in their performances.
What I mean by that is there was never a point where I felt these great actors really disappeared into their characters. More often than not, I could only see the personalities on display, and not a collection of great performances that brought the heroes of the Battle of Britain to life. The performances are by no means bad, but they are definitely uninspiring in comparison to the rest of the film’s boisterous atmosphere.
And that atmosphere is what really makes Battle of Britain. Much like some of the best British war films, it captures the spirit of the British war effort in the 1940s with a positive, uplifting and hugely patriotic message. It recognises and respects the people who saved the country and the world from Nazi invasion, and carries that through to a film that not only educates, but elates on every level.
At the centre of that distinctive atmosphere lies two brilliant elements that make this film the classic it is today. Firstly, the score is absolutely stunning. The two main themes mirror the RAF and foreign air forces’ drive, bravery and teamwork at every moment throughout the battle, which perfectly emphasises the film’s clear respect to the heroes of the true story, as well as its effortlessly patriotic vibe that makes it such an enjoyable watch.
But the real icing on the cake in this film is its spectacular aerial battle sequences. Nearly 50 years later, I couldn’t find one thing about them that looks dated or unimpressive, and the use of practical effects in fact heightens the excitement and realism of the battles. Save for 2001: A Space Odyssey, this is probably the most visually spectacular and exciting film of the pre-Star Wars era, and that deserves massive credit.
Overall, Battle Of Britain doesn’t always work wonders when it comes to an enthralling story surrounding its characters, due to middling performances and a relatively average script. However, it’s a delight for any fan of history, and its patriotic and positive atmosphere, combined with its stunning score and spectacular action sequences, make it a hugely entertaining watch from start to finish, and that’s why I’m giving Battle Of Britain a 7.5.