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4.7 out of 5 stars132
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 3 June 2015
Very polished production based on, as the tile suggests, the 37 days leaving up to to World War I.

The sad part is this drama is based on fact and documents as known and it so clearly shows that there was ample opportunity to stop the war if those in power had really wanted to.

With that said this is an important historical film that it well worth watching to gain an insight into the why.
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on 5 August 2014
Absolutely first class!! Showed all the diplomatic complexities in a simplified way. Educational, interesting, superb acting.
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on 18 October 2014
The tale of the slide of Europe in into what everyone knew would be a disastrous war, told almost exclusively from the British view point it shows how little diplomacy can do when a collision course is already set between the great powers.
The story is meticulously correct in detail, told at a slow pace with wonderful performance from the actors.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 November 2014
This is a series dedicated to describing the events leading to the outbreak of the first World War. To do this it has to take the very complicated diplomatic situation of the time and simplify it for audiences' consumption. It is to the considerable credit of the series that this simplification does not get carried too far. The various twists and turns are portrayed nearly exactly the way they occurred, and if it is possible to argue with the motivations recorded for such actions that is a matter of historical perspective.

The main lead here is Sir Edward Grey, ably played by Emperor Palpatine. Grey is the Foreign Secretary and as such was the chief British official responsible for negotiations leading up to the war. His main goal during this month (the 37 days of the title) was to get all the sides to agree to a peaceful solution, through whatever means necessary. It may seem odd to have the British viewpoint at the center given the peripheral state of the United Kingdom to these events, but their very lack of ties was what allowed them to remain a neutral party advocating for peace. Also shown is the German side, although it receives much less attention. It never really goes into Austria, France, Russia, or any of the other states, which does distort the view somewhat.

One of the highpoints of the series is seeing historical figures embodied well. As mentioned before, Ian McDiarmid makes an excellent Grey, even if they look nothing alike. Rather more accurate to history are Churchill, Lloyd George, Henry Asquith, and John Burns. They look and act the part well.

This series does make some rather odd and serious mistakes. The first of these is seen in the very beginning: they choose to ease the viewer into this world by hitching onto two minor players in these events. That sounds like a good idea, but the execution is flawed. First, they introduce them through a voice-over narration that sounds just like a docudrama and features them telling us who they are and what they believe, which feels like very much a case of telling us what's going on rather than letting us see it. It seems to display a lack of faith in the audience's ability to work things out for their own. Second, these characters have little to do with the rest of the episodes, which focus more on the main players. This makes their introductions seem not a little gimmicky while misleading the audience from the get go. Aside from that I only had two real problems with it: While the series may have made great use of exteriors the shots the camera shots remain static which leads to a claustrophobic and limited perspective. Also, the different countries all talk in heavily accented English, which bothers me when it's in a film that is trying to be as realistic as possible.

These problems, except for the first one, are rather nitpicky. On the whole I don't think that the series can be topped as a presentation of the negotiations that led to the first World War.
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on 30 June 2014
In this cetennial year of the outbreak of hostilities, book shops seem to be inundated with new histories of the period. Surprisingly, the same cannot be said about movies - this is the only one of which I am aware which has obviously been timed to come out when it has.

Let me begin by saying that it is really worth seeing- the acting is good and the script, in particular, is superb.

My misgiving about the film is that , if not biased, then it is at least too Anglo - centric.

Having read but three or four histories of that period, I make no claims to any expertise. But given that "war guilt and WW1" was to become such an important issue at Versailles and, of course, the events leading up to WW11, I am disappointed that the presentation of the times was done in less one sided terms.

Churchill comes out almost unscathed. The Kaiser and von Molkte (especially) are the villains of the piece.And as for the French? We arn't even shown so much as one scene involving the French government deliberating - come to think of it we see no French general or politician at all. The Austrian Emperor has no speaking part and Tsar Nicholas has very little air time too.

In the main we observe the events from the perspective of the Foreign Office.All well and good.

Surely an historical account should attempt a wider perspective?

.
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on 29 July 2014
Excellent reconstruction of events that led to the Great War. (OK, I know it is seen from a British point of view, but there again, it is a BBC production. The French, Germans, Austrians and Serbs can make their own productions).

Solid cast, good screenplay and excellent direction makes for enjoyable viewing.
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on 21 November 2015
A group of old men pondering the fate of millions of young men at the start of the first world war.Well acted and inciteful -God it makes you think and it makes the Kaiser look like he was a victim of circumstances rather than a war mongering despot.Not a bad movie for all that and well worth watching.
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on 23 July 2014
You hesitate to put a contrary view to the praise given this worthy series but it presents such an inaccurate idea of the times. In the main, international events are correctly described, but is that enough, if a drama is claiming to portray history ? Aspects of importance were distorted (political incorrectness is corrected!) creating a false picture of the era, its atmosphere, its dynamics.

The Kaiser and his Military had planned and waited years for this dangerous moment -but you wouldn't think so. This was not a telling picture of Imperial Germany. Were the German actors out of sympathy with their roles ? Kaiser Wilhelm II had established something akin to personal rule, and largely directed policy. During the crisis he wavered -but where was the Kaiser's aura of power, the crack of the whip, the unquestioned command which characterized the Supreme War Lord ?

Here, von Moltke and the Kaiser's aristocratic Military Entourage were coarse, over-acted blustering thugs. Their accents were often incomprehensible, their noble bearing non-existent, and the ill-fitting uniforms (which should have been superb) were a surprising low from the BBC. It was a bit like a confusing pantomime.

The only sane fellows were the British. Nevertheless we soon witness the very floppy Foreign Secretary being outrageously rude to ambassadors of the European Powers ! In diplomatic circles exquisite manners and professional good humour were de rigueur, even with potential enemies on the brink of war. Perfect tact was maintained until the last moment -this was the essential nature of diplomacy in Europe. They called it 'savoir faire'. What we saw destroyed credibility.

(Their Excellencies waited to see the F.S. seated against some shabby old cupboards which had lost their handles. Could this have been a reception room at the Foreign Office? Is this the Beeb economising or just not bothering ?)

The depiction of some of these distinguished Ambassadors as ridiculous buffoons (cue winks between servants) made you wonder if the writer had been simply looking for laughs. Maybe some jokes were thought necessary during a serious story, but this was pushing ridicule (and unreality) a bit far. Then having seen off these silly ambassadors, Sir Edward Grey waves toodle-oo to the girls in the typing pool as he goes home. This was a friendly modern scene - but this was not set in 2014 but a century ago, when things were very different...

Created in the long shadow cast by 'Downton Abbey', this fictionalised drama depicts sparky messengers, maids, typists and footmen as part of the story, they are invented protagonists alongside the real politicians and kings. (The middle class is totally wiped out. An epidemic?) At the elbow of the powerful, with little sign of being worked hard, the chatty 'lower orders' are at the centre of things, and it is their voices we hear narrating the crisis. Possibly OK for fiction like 'Downton Abbey', this is an unrealistic view of history. It gives wrong information about some less acceptable aspects of 1914 society.

The truth was that in 1914 every servant "knew his place". Servants received little consideration and were rarely asked their opinion. No servant could have influenced what was happening in the European crisis (except with a gun, like Princip !) Their job was certainly not to "get above themselves" and voice comments in the corridors of power. They were required to be deferential and respectful, to pay attention, take orders...and disappear. These were the rigid rules of the game. Anything else was unthinkable or you would be out of a job. (Churchill sacked his manservant in the middle of the night when he saw the man had put on his trousers over his pyjamas.)

Servants were definitely not on relaxed terms with the Foreign Secretary, and none could have grasped, let alone were involved with, what was really going on. It was none of their business (until they were invited to enlist.) But in "37 Days" the uncrossable gulf which in 1914 separated masters from servants -the most significant dynamic in society- is almost deleted.

Deleted to fit more comfortably with our own attitudes ? But if history is forced to be 'politically correct' it ceases to be history, it becomes fiction. This series shows no understanding of the class-system which dominated British society, thus distorting the entire picture.

The only scene which depicted the master/servant relationship with realistic tension was the British Cabinet's audience with King George V. Except in this case they spoiled it for another reason, by getting the King all wrong. King George V knew his job: he was helpful and accommodating towards politicians in government.

This often embarrassing series was saved by some of the actors playing British politicians. Above all by a riveting Mrs.Asquith from Sinead Cusack, whose stunning cameo made you feel, if only for a moment, you really had glimpsed another world. She was the only real man among them.
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on 3 July 2015
This is a well acted, well written and easy to understand account of the final month before the start of WW1. The history is actually handled well and put in such a way as to make it absorbing but also simple for viewers with no knowledge of this vital time in European history.
The cast is magnificent throughout, with such names as Ian McDiarmid and Tim Piggot-Smith adding some heavyweight gravitas to key roles.
I read a lot of history about the 1st World War and it's origins and found this intensely moving. My wife knows little of this period in history but says that she found her interest piqued by this take on things and found it much easier to follow that her previous looks into the subject.
This is the kind of 1st class historical educational entertainment that the BBC is famed for, and long may it continue.
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on 21 December 2014
One of the best of the best. There was no crime greater than regicide for the Kaiser, save for the rest of Europe his even greater crime of plunging the world into a Great War from which it has still not recovered. At least that is how it comes across. This series had excellent actors, dramatic script ,even if not entirely accurate to history,but it certainly conveyed the dilemma of the Asquith government in trying to prevent war without prejudice to British interests. It was this interest which was determinative as to the decision as is portrayed here. Those playing Lloyd George, the Kaiser, Von Moltke, and Sir Edward Grey seem to capture the times and the characters as we might imagine them. A realistic and telling portrayal of a great moment in history, certainly the most important of the twentieth century. Highly commended.
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