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Dark Blue World (2002)

Review: written May 2010

Convincingly presented Czech perspective on the Battle of Britain

Dark Blue World (2002)

There's a compelling story here, that hasn't been told before, of the Czech pilots who fled Czechoslovakia to join the RAF at the beginning of WW II. A collection of warm and convincing performances by the leads show the bond between men during war time, intercut with aerial scenes which are surprisingly and convincingly authentic. These are real planes up there, and one of the films key strengths is it's feeling of how tangible these planes are, both on and off the ground. This is done by some clever photography, but also by re-using some of the skirmishes shot for `Battle of Britain' back in 1969... seamlessly done so you'd never know it. The end result is you don't have that aftertaste that computer generated flying scenes leave you with, of watching a photo realistic cartoon where the physics is just Not. Quite. Right. Indeed, when real planes are used as they are here, they feel like one of the characters of the movie, so evocative are they of the time. They genuinely feel you can reach out and touch them, and when you hear them, you just know it is real, not some sound engineer's creation.

Dark Blue World (2002)

On the other hand, the bond between men has been illustrated with a somewhat hackneyed story line- two men fall for the same lady during war time, and this aspect, though sweet enough with characters we care about, feels like an overused plot device. Tara Fitzgerald is the weakest of the main leads, let down by a script which fails in this key romantic thread of the story to feel organic and real, contrasted by the way it succeeds so well in the rest of the movie at illustrating the experience of Czech pilots in the RAF in an authentic and uncontrived way. The themes of the movie and sensitivity of the direction mean this is by no means a fatal flaw, merely a quibble in an otherwise satisfying and well balanced movie.

The main story in this central part is contrasted by scenes from 5 years after the war, in a Czech labour camp. To the unititated this is certainly the most surprising part of the story, how the heroes of the Battle of Britain returned to Czechoslovakia as outcasts and jailed out of fear they could rouse the same fervour against the Soviet regime that they did against the Nazis. One feels there is almost a whole other movie that could have been made out of these few scenes which leave the fate of the main character hanging. Indeed, the contrast of the ending to the warm camaraderie of wartime is refreshingly un-Hollywood, but an integral part of telling the experience of these brave men.

So it's not an absolutely perfect concoction, with a rather trite romantic thread framing an altogether more interesting and relatively untold story of the Second World War. Stunning cinematography and a clutch of memorable performances should win you over however and bump this up a notch. Don't be put off by the Czech language - indeed, much of the movie is in English anyway. This does not mean this is your typical Euro-picture smorgasboard, but rather it is a coherently presented vision superior in many ways to significantly larger budgeted wartime movies of the last couple of decades. The tangible reality of the Spitfires and the dewy morning `Scramble!'s are worth it alone.

Dark Blue World (2002)

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