Gillies Mackinnon‘s portrait of engineer Robert Watson Watt, Castles in the Sky, is a shining and celebratory take on the ingenuity and courage of the British spirit.
Castles in the Sky follows visionary Scots engineer Robert Watson Watt in his creation of radar – a device responsible for saving countless lives during World War II and winning the Battle of Britain. We follow the eccentric engineer as he is called upon to develop the tool for the British Government despite continual setbacks, budget-constraints, and the growing pressure of Hitler’s rise to power.
Mackinnon and screenwriter Ian Kershaw’s tale serves as a light bite size slice of British history that may not delve to complex depths, but consistently remains warm and charming. This tale of unsung heroes working day and night and fighting against the bickering internal politics of the British Government, is one that deserves to be told and in this respect Castles in the Sky is a fitting tribute.
Despite this, the simplistic style results in a watch that can verge on repetitive. We follow Watt and his team of engineers devising a prototype that always seems to fall at the last hurdle. That is until they have a breakthrough, until that eventually falls at the final stage. The goes on throughout the course of the film until we finally have a fully working model. The main focus of Castles in the Sky is watching the men overcome these consistent setbacks and their creativity and ingenuity in doing so. There is a huge amount of positivity in the endearing spirit of Mackinnon’s film and it is a somewhat inspiring watch seeing the protagonists succeed.
There is some darkness to balance the light-heartedness most notably seen in Castles in the Sky‘s foreshadowing of the war. Consistent black and white archive footage of Hitler’s rallies and militarisation of Germany gives the film a pressing urgency and slight sense of tension. Occasional scenes featuring Churchill (Tim McInnery) also hit hard that the threat of war is looming and that Watt and his men have a limited timeframe for their work.
The true star of Castles in the Sky, however, is Eddie Izzard. The actor is exceptional as Watt bringing an eccentric charisma and likeability to the fold, showcasing the engineer as a quick-thinking, inspiring dreamer. There are no qualms about the fact that Izzard is the heart and soul of Castles in the Sky and that this is his most outstanding performance yet. The film’s emotional backbone comes in the form of Watt’s tender relationship with his wife (an excellent Laura Fraser) strained by his new found responsibility working for the Government.
Castles in the Sky is a light, charming and inspiring watch that fittingly pays tribute to unsung British heroes . Despite an occasionally repetitive structure, Castles in the Sky remains watchable thanks to an exceptional performance from Eddie Izzard.
Drama, History, Biography
23rd June, 28th June 2014
Eddie Izzard, Alex Jennings, David Hayman, Laura Fraser, Karl Davies, Julian Rhind-Tutt