DIRECTOR: Michael Anderson
May Contain Spoilers!
Classic British war movies don’t come much better than this, the true story of the air raids on three major German dams in World War II. Barnes Wallis (Michael Redgrave), after knocking up the Wellington Bomber, devised a plan to use a new kind of bomb, which would bounce across the water to rest against the wall of the dam and blow it up, using te water pressure along the way. But it’s not an easy task persuading the war ministry but he manages it and the plans are afoot for the raid.
Over to Guy Gibson (Richard Todd) and his special squadron who have the complicated task of developing a plan and the skills in order to meet the stringent and almost impossible requirements for deploying the bouncing bombs. But, this is not a film about failure, rather one of perseverance and eventual success.
The film is engrossing right up until the mission itself but it’s then that I begin to get a little bored. The arduous journey of Wallis to develop his weapon and convince someone to take it up are interesting, as is the training of the pilots and the coinciding story of the Wallis’ relentless attempt to perfect his weapon right up until the deadline. But the raid itself, which was one of the inspirations for Star Wars’ (1977) climactic dogfight, leaves me a little cold.
It could be that the film, which up until this point had been so grounded, was suddenly dominated by the special effects of the day and obviously, British SFX of the 1950’s were not the best. But that shouldn’t put me off, but it was not the only problem. It’s just a bit predictable, dark and just not a s thrilling or interesting to me as the rest of the film, but it’s just a matter of taste.
But this is one of the most interesting stories of the war, showing true British grit, stiff upper lips, even in the face of Gibson’s dog’s, the controversially named Nigger, death on the day of the mission, and the innovation which drove the conflict on all sides. And that march by Eric Coates is still one of the most rousing war movie themes of all time.
N.B. The Dam Busters mission took place on 16th – 17th May 1943, 70 years ago, and the film was released on this day, 24th May in 1955.