RED JOAN releases in cinemas this Friday and stars Dame Judi Dench as Joan Stanley who is living in contented retirement in suburbia at the turn of the millennium. Her tranquil life is suddenly disrupted when she’s arrested by MI5 and accused of providing intelligence to Communist Russia during World War II.
Cut to 1938 where Joan is a Cambridge physics student who falls for young communist Leo Galich and through him, begins to see the world in a new light.
Although the war ended almost 74-years ago, many period films centre during the horrific battles and intense decision-makings of it.
To celebrate the release of the new spy drama, we look back at a few of the great WII films made to date.
THE DAM BUSTERS – 1954
Based on Paul Brickhill’s book and being largely historically accurate, The Dam Busters is about the Operation Chastise soldiers’ quick changing reaction from successfully striking against the enemy’s industrial base to then realizing that many casualties occurred as well. All of the flight sequences were shot using real Avro Lancaster bombers by the RAF, with the modification of the gun turrets removed. The Dam Buster March was the theme song for the movie, composed by Eric Coates, that today is still used for UK’s flypasts.
KELLY’S HEROES – 1970
This World War II comedy is about Private Kelly’s idea of going behind enemy lines and stealing 14,000 gold bars with the help of his last second platoon. The majority of the film was shot in Yugoslavia due to the Yugoslavian army still used Sherman tanks and other WWII weapons during the film’s production. Artillery Sergeant Mulligan received the ‘on-the-nose’ name due to “mulligan” defines as “do-over” and how his character is constantly being scolded for his inaccurate shots. The action-adventure war film is considered a comedy classic in the war genre.
SCHINDLER’S LIST – 1993
One of the greatest films in cinema history: Schinder’s List is about Oskad Schindler, a German business man, who saved more than a thousand Polish-Jewish lives from the holocaust. Steven Spielberg’s project spent nearly a decade in pre-production and was shot over 72 days. Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski, the cinematographer, mutually agreed to have the film in black and white due to their research of testimonies and archival footage were all in black and white. This choice help enhance defined moments, such as the little girl in the red coat. One interesting fact is that Spielberg submitted this film for one of his California State Long Beach submissions when earning his film bachelor’s degree.
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN – 1998
Selected for preservation by the National Film Registry, Saving Private Ryan is remarked as one of the most important historical films in the war genre. Steven Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski team up again to embark the story of Captain Miller and his squad on the search for Private Ryan. The film begins with a graphic and gruel 27 minutes of the men entering Omaha Beach during the Normandy landings. To gain more sense of realism, the actors went through a 10-day boot camp; training in tactical defence and how to clean, assemble and fire World War II weapons.
DUNKIRK – 2017
One of Christopher Nolan’s latest work, Dunkirk follows three separate storylines of the characters who all experience the radical effects of the Dunkirk evacuation. The film has a popular collection of cast: including Tom Hardy, James D’Arcy, Kenneth Branagh as well as Harry Styles, Jack London, Tom Glynn-Carney and Fionn Whitehead. Nolan’s casting choices were particularly interesting. Considering that Tom Hardy’s eyes were perfect for the role (since most of his face was covered when inside the plane) and how Harry Styles had an old-fashioned kind of face.