on 29 April 2006
The story of Douglas Bader is a well known one. He crashed a Bristol Bulldog doing low level aerobatics and lost both legs. He overcame this disability and flew for the RAF in the battle of britain - with great success.
This classic film tells Bader's tale. Kenneth More portrays Bader as a really nice guy, which is not really what the real Bader was like, but some artistic licence is forgivable in film. His relationship with Thelma is well depicted, as are the aerial combat scenes. One of the advantages of Black and White films is the ability to use actual WW11 combat footage. It certainly looks better than when special effects are used. All the flying scenes are great, except that the spitfires used are late marks, with the 'bubble' canopy. This is an annoying thing for air buffs like myself, but in this case we can forgive it, since the all round quality of the picture makes up for it.
I consider Bader's tale one of the most inspiring in history, and it is a story that will live on thanks to this film.
on 19 June 2001
Kenneth More portrays the life of Duglas Bader from the time he first joined the R.A.F through until the end of World War Two. This film is truely inspiring, and despite its age, is an amazing story of utter determination and ture courrage. With great flying footage, surpurb music, and a brilliant story... Reach For The Sky is one of my all time favourites.
on 9 October 2000
I feel more than lucky to be the American Son, of an English Mother, who was in Southampton during the Battle of Britain. She told me of Men like Douglas Bader, and when she took me to see Reach for the Skies, the movie peeked my interest in the R.A.F, and ITS glorious history. REACH FOR THE SKIES, as far as I am concerned should be watched by every British young person, so that they can fully understand a Man's love for his country during a desparate fight against odds.
on 15 June 2007
The story of Wing Commander Douglas Bader. After joining the RAF in the late 1920s, Bader badly injured himself in an air crash, losing both legs. He left the air force and seemed condemned to a life of boring 'civviedom' trapped in an office. The outbreak of World War 2 however gave him another opportunity to fly and he rejoined the RAF as a fighter pilot. He flew throughout the Battle of Britain before eventually being shotdown during the 'Rhubarb' flights over occupied France. Even in captivity he continued to campaign against the Germans, attempting to escape numerous times before being transferred to the infamous Colditz prison camp for serial escapers.
This film, like all war films of the immediate post war period, gains greatly by being able to use actual footage from the war interspersed with the actors. A stunning film portraying a true British hero.
Douglas Bader, the subject of this movie is portrayed as the archetypal British hero.
Bader was in reality brash and overconfident in his own abilities, wholly disliked by his fellow RAF trainees and solely responsible for the crash that caused him to lose both legs; his brashness lead him to commit an error that a more experienced flyer would not have made. I briefly met the man towards the end of his life and also knew another who shared his predicament and who knew Bader rather well; they were both patients at the same hospital that provided their ongoing care. Bader was considered a 'nasty piece of work' by those who knew him best and he had few, if any, real friends. He had drinking pals, golf pals and a few ex-RAF pals but that was it.
While in hospital after his crash, he was initially very close to death but very slowly recovered. During his recuperation, he met Thelma who was helping a friend at a country café. A relationship developed and they later married. The marriage did become strained and Thelma apparently became very unhappy over many years. Childless, she later developed cancer and died. Bader remarried rather late in life.
The film portrays his life from just before the crash some years before the war to the VE Day parade and fly-past in 1945. Initially, after his discharge from hospital, Bader assumed a civilian job and after war was declared in 1939, he sought to be able to resume his RAF career. He managed to pass the tests and flew in active combat. Shot down quite early in the war over France, he spent the rest of the war in captivity until repatriation upon Germany's surrender.
However, the movie smooths over and largely removes most of Bader's rough edges and rather glamourises the man.
Whether or not you agree with the 'hero' tag is your personal choice. When I first saw the movie, probably when first released, I certainly believed what I had seen. Once I had met the man many years later and learned a little more about him via our mutual acquaintance (I did not believe that he and Bader were ever friends), I changed my opinion.
A perfectly acceptable movie, and a good story, if slightly faulted by its gross inaccuracies.
Despite the view that this is not historically accurate in many respects, e.g. Bader's personality, the mark of the spitfires used in combat scenes and a few other elements, I enjoyed this film a great deal.
No matter whether he was more or less likeable, he was a war ace and a hero - for more than one reason. A real "Boy's Own" hero if ever there was one and one who deserves the memory this film is.
Kenneth More is excellent, everybody's idea of the British hero and potraying this character must hve been a challenge, especially the need to walk in thet distinctive way. (If More found it difficult, how was it for Bader?) The film takes viewers through the stages in his life, telling each with great skill.
It may not be everyone's taste, especially now that it is showing its age, but it is agreat example of the genre.
This is an EXCELLENT film, telling an almost unbelievable, but nevertheless STRICTLY TRUE STORY. This review contains some limited SPOILERS.
Before going further, one more precision. For the purpose of this review I decided to assume that some people may actually NOT KNOW today who Sir Douglas Bader was, what were his achievements and why was he such an exceptionnal man - and therefore I purposefully decided to remain vague about some details of his life, career and adventures, so those who decide to watch this film can enjoy the twists and surprises...
Group Captain Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader, CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar, FRAeS, DL was born on 21 February 1910 in London. In his early years he was a very promising athlete and especially a very agressive and fearless rugby player - later he also caught the demon of speed and excelled in motorcycle and car races. However it was the flying that became his greatest passion and in 1928 he joined the RAF as a cadet officer - he quickly earned quite a reputation even amongst more experienced pilots. His promissing career was however cut short by an extremely serious incident in 1931. Desperate to be allowed to stay in RAF and fly again, Bader waged a titanic struggle for two years on many fronts, but ultimately the high command of RAF proved to be too strong. From 1933 to 1939 Bader had to take a civilian job.
Great Britain entry to war in 1939 allowed Bader to try again and this time he prevailed. He was allowed to fly again and to join a RAF Fighter Command squadron equipped with the just introduced into service Spitfires. Soon after that, he became a LIVING LEGEND and entered for ever into the hall of immortal glory of greatest pilots who ever lived! In war time, even Luftwaffe pilots and generals, to whom Bader caused a great amount of grief, literally worshipped him! In what circumstances he accomplished this? Well, if you do not know it yet, please DO NOT look it up on the internet - instead, buy and watch this EXCELLENT film...
This film doesn't go further than World War II, but Sir Douglas Bader lived a long and well filled life after 1945, before dying from a heart attack in 1982 in London. His funeral was attended by a crowd of dignitaries and personalities, amongst whom was also ex-Luftwaffe general Adolf Galland, an ace with 104 victories (including some piloting a Me-262 jet fighter in last days of WWII), whom Bader befriended in 1945.
Bader was known for his strong opinions and he cared little for diplomacy - once, meeting after war a large group of former Luftwaffe pilots, he exclaimed "My God, I had no idea we left so many of you bastards alive!". A life long conservative, he never hid also his opposition to many developments of British post-war society, even if this attracted him the hostility of most left-winged medias - he especially until his last days advocated to retablish the death penalty and strongly limit the immigration. He was also until his last day a great defender of memory of Sir Arthur Harris, so horribly mistreated by "progressive" historians and journalists.
"Reach for the sky" is a long film (2h15) but I swear you will not see or feel the time passing by! It has rather few action scenes, but its real strength is in the brilliant, witty dialogs and excellent performance of all actors, beginning of course with the brilliant Kenneth More who plays Bader himself.
Initially Richard Burton was supposed to play this role - but after reading the script More pulled all the strings and favors he could to obtain it and I believe it was for the best for this film, his own career - and also Richard Burton himself... By a strange coincidence, both Bader and More died the same year, only weeks apart (More on 12 July, Bader on 5 September).
Lovely Muriel Pavlow, who although retired from playing since 2009 still is with us as of July 2013, gave also a brilliant performance as Bader's wife, Thelma, whom he courted for months with his usual energy and with whom he ultimately spend 34 happy years until her untimely death from cancer in 1967...
Dorothy Alison, who plays Nurse Brace, gives the most powerful performance amongst the second roles - she is absolutely impresive here.
I will say it again - this film absolutely IMPRESSED me, both by the skill of movie-making it displays and by the powerful lesson its larger than life hero teaches. Sir Douglas Bader lived the most crucial years of his life in the time of giants and he sat amongst them as equal. This man decided to reach for the sky and even if the whole world was holding him down, he would not be denied. When he set his eyes on a worthy prize, be it a woman, a career or even simply a good fight, he would get it - come hell, high water or both... And watching him struggle for all of it, is a great and inspiring thing.
Bottom line - buy it, watch it and keep it for your children. Enjoy!