Tag: WWII

Life after Life (2013)

Life after Life

by Kate Atkinson (Penguin, 2013)

audiobook read by Fenella Woolgar (Bolinda, 2014)

Book cover: “Life after Life” by Kate Atkinson (Penguin, 2013); audiobook read by Fenella Woolgar (Bolinda, 2014)

A long novel that does justice to its historical setting and characters but not the speculative premise (little more than an excuse to include multiple draft chapters). The whole of Ursula’s existence amounts to no more than the sum of its parts.

The Heavy Water War

The Heavy Water War

dir. Per-Olav Sørensen (NRK, 2015) [subtitled] [originally ‘Kampen om tungtvannet’]

TV poster: “The Heavy Water War” dir. Per-Olav Sørensen (NRK, 2015) [subtitled] [originally ‘Kampen om tungtvannet’]

Well-paced war miniseries, genuinely tense at times and with dollops of emotive face acting. The dual plots address Germany’s development of the atomic bomb and the Allies’ efforts to blow up Norway’s heavy water plant. An effective study in science/duty versus morality.

Malta Story

Malta Story

dir. Brian Desmond Hurst (1953)

Film poster: “Malta Story” dir. Brian Desmond Hurst (1953)

A verisimilitudinous war story filmed only a decade after the events it portrays, and incorporating archival combat footage. Alec Guinness plays a placidly stiff-upper-lipped archaeologist turned reconnaissance pilot, doing his bit even while falling in love, one wistful eye to the future.

Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour

dir. Joe Wright (2017)

Film poster: “Darkest Hour” dir. Joe Wright (2017)

Wright tries a tad too hard, as if having to trick the audience into engaging with politics (despite their inherent drama). The score, in particular, proves relentless. Where Churchill so often is merely caricatured, Gary Oldman brings nuance. Lily James is excellent.

The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men

dir. George Clooney (2014)

Film poster: “The Monuments Men” dir. George Clooney (2014)

An important story but largely unsatisfying as a film. The cast is split up in a piecemeal treasure hunt that lays little emotive groundwork for the big character moments. Clooney’s script promotes a ‘flippancy under fire’ humour that doesn’t really come off.

St Kilda Blues

St Kilda Blues

by Geoffrey McGeachin (Penguin, 2014); audiobook read by David Tredinnick (Playaway, 2014)

McGeachin_St Kilda Blues

Though the investigation itself is commonplace, McGeachin immerses his protagonist in the details of history, presenting a time capsule of Australian—in particular, Melburnian—culture in the late 1960s. Stolid ex-WWII bomber pilot Charlie Berlin shows mettle worthy of the character study.

 

 

The Great Dictator

The Great Dictator

dir. Charlie Chaplin (1940)

Chaplin_Great Dictator

A political satire that, even at the time, carried a poignance well beyond its surface humour. Chaplin, playing a Jewish barber Hitler lookalike, struck an uneasy but quite brilliant balance between serious filmmaking (Chaplin the writer-director) and comic business (Chaplin the actor).

 

 

Reach for the Sky

Reach for the Sky: The Story of Douglas Bader DSO, DFC

by Paul Brickhill (W. W. Norton & Company, 1954); audiobook read by Robert Hardy (Chivers, 1991/2010)

Brickhill_Reach for the Sky

Brickhill is firmly eulogistic (though not without cause) in detailing the extraordinary feats of double-amputee fighter pilot Douglas Bader, and also something of English life itself in the interwar period and during World War II. Robert Hardy’s audiobook reading captures the spirit.

 

 

SS-GB, Series 1

SS-GB, Series 1

created by Len Deighton (BBC, 2017)

SS-GB_01

In the alternative history of 1941, England is occupied by Nazi Germany. Though nominally independent, Scotland Yard detective Douglas Archer must reconcile his place working for the oppressors. A realistically conceived historical drama that plays to its strengths, unconstrained by audience expectations.

 

 

The Great Escape

The Great Escape

by Paul Brickhill (Faber & Faber, 1951)

Brickhill_The Great Escape

Brickhill’s eyewitness description of the infamous tunnel break from German POW camp Stalag Luft III — enshrined still further by the film of 1963 — remains a sincere and clearly written record, and a lasting testament to its protagonists’ spirit, ingenuity and sheer perseverance.