Dark Blue World (12)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner05/10/2002

Four out of five stars
Running time: 114 mins

Note: In English and Czech with English subtitles.

Enjoyable, thought-provoking war-time drama from the Oscar-winning team behind Kolya – in many ways it’s the film Pearl Harbour should have been.

In 1997, Czech director Jan Sverak won the Best Foreign Film Oscar for his film Kolya and here he re-teams with his father, screenwriter Zdenek Sverak (writer and star of Kolya), for an impressive, thought-provoking and enjoyable drama centering on the role of Czech pilots in World War Two, as well as the disturbing truth about what happened to them after the war.

The film centers on two Czech pilots – the older, more experienced Frantisek (Vetchy) and his protége, the boyish, impulsive Karel (rising Czech star Hadek). As the film opens, it is 1950, the war is over and Frantisek is imprisoned in his now Communist-controlled native country as an “enemy of the people” – the majority of the story takes place in flashback as he reflects on his experiences during the war…

In 1939, Frantisek and Karel manage to escape Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and make their way to England where they are both welcomed into the RAF (under the watchful eye of Charles Dance) and fight in the Battle of Britain. However, the men find their friendship severely tested when they both fall for the same woman (Tara Fitzgerald).

In terms of romantic sub-plot, then, this is very similar to Pearl Harbour, although, given the context of the film and Frantisek’s eventual fate, it is also possible to read Fitzgerald’s treatment of the two men as symbolic of England’s treatment of the Czech pilots (i.e. conveniently forgetting them once the war is over).

In addition, the film is a lot less clichéd than Pearl Harbour and the characters are more fully realised (though Fitzgerald’s part is under-written). As for the performances, both British actors are comprehensively out-acted by the Czechs, although in fairness this is also down to the script, particularly in Charles Dance’s case.

Dark Blue World also scores in terms of its stunning aerial dogfight sequences, which were seamlessly created using a mixture of models, CGI-work, actual live-action aerial filming and out-takes from the 1969 epic The Battle of Britain. It also features some sumptuous photography, courtesy of the splendidly-named Vladimir Smutny.

In short, Dark Blue World is a well-made, moving, thought-provoking and exciting drama that puts the likes of Pearl Harbour to shame – it even has a comedy ‘bit with a dog’. It is also worth seeing for Shallow And Obvious Reasons in the shape of drop-dead gorgeous Czech actress Linda Rybova, as the girl Frantisek leaves behind. Recommended.

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Content updated: 20/08/2018 07:28

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