Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Dam Busters

My husband maintains that this movie plays continuously on Saturday afternoons back in the old country (The United Kingdom) and that watching it one should imagine you are without the myriad of tivo, cable and download options you have and just pretend that it's either this, cricket or a Welsh language documentary about cheese production. If you can pull this off then The Dam Busters is jolly enjoyable. If not, you can always focus on counting the number of pointless procedural meetings that are "dramatized" and form the bulk of the "suspense" in the first half of the movie. I found myself thinking of Lawrence of Arabia quite a bit during Dam Busters because in that movie these sorts of scenes are actually entertaining. Remember the scene where he goes before General Allengate and Allengate says, "I know you're well educated Lawrence, it says so in your dosier." At this point my husband wondered why I was chuckling to myself when nothing funny was happening on screen. On screen Michael Redgrave was explaining something complicated about physics to a room full of people who were pretending to care.

Another faintly amusing way to pass the time during Dam Busters is to drink every time Richard Todd says the name of his dog in the film. The name of his dog is the n-word. Yeah, I know. Is that really necessary for historical accuracy? Can't they dub that out now? It's one of those occasions where you drink to forget as much as play the game.

I recorded this movie because it has Michael Redgrave in it. He gives a decent performance as the engineer who invented the bombing technique which ultimately destroyed the critical German dams. To be honest, he doesn't have much to do as an actor. Mostly it amounts to him standing around in meetings looking anxious.

Umm, I have no idea who this actor is.

The dam busting scenes use some innovative in-camera special effects. Some of these look pretty badly dated, but I found the effects a welcome relief from the scenes of the interiors of the bombers since these are all exactly the same. The problem is that for historical accuracy all the actors have to wear full face oxygen masks. It's kinda hard to communicate complex emotion when you don't know who is talking and all the actors are limited to using only the upper third of their faces. I guess it works well enough because all they have to communicate will be repeated via telegraph back to the war room where it will be reacted to by the generals and poor Michael Redgrave who is really giving his anxious face a work out.

I'm sure there are people out there who love Dam Busters and will find my review hateful. That's probably fair enough since I do think the movie does a good job of telling the story that it is trying to tell and making a complex topic and a big cast of characters into something that can be followed. Of course, a straight forward documentary (in English please, no Welsh) would probably do just as well and all those tedious meeting scenes could be summarized quickly instead of playing out in real-time.

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