EIFF 2014 – Castles In The Sky
Castles In The Sky focuses on historical figure Robert Watson-Watt (Eddie Izzard) and his carefully chosen team of eccentric meteorologists as they struggle with a laughable budget to bring the concept of Radar to life. Throughout the story Watson-Watt has to deal with a great many technical issues, marital problems and even a spy in his midst as he tries to bring his dream to life.
I quite like historical fiction and I’m not familiar enough with the real story to know how closely this film follows the true events which I suppose doesn’t really matter unless it’s going to call itself a documentary. Quite simply this was a really good story that was very well told. The script was more playful than I would have expected for such a serious subject matter which suits this film and the comic stylings of Eddie Izzard really well. His Robert Watson-Watt comes across as a brilliantly naive man who has a specific vision for his invention but a complete lack of the necessary means to build it. This struggle is played for laughs throughout as the team have to come up with increasingly innovative ways to solve the never ending list of problems that seem to be cropping up.
Other highlights among the cast include Laura Fraser -Breaking Bad- playing Robert’s wife Margaret, she subtly plays a woman who tries as had as she can to stand by her husband through his obsession but it’s easy to see her resolve slowly crack, it’s a nice understated performance that never becomes overly dramatic. Celyn Jones as Taffy was great too, in many ways he was a Welsh stereotype but there was enough depth to the character to help me overlook that.
The film had a very BBC drama feel to it which is no bad thing considering it was originally produced for Television. The sets, props, vehicles and costumes all look very authentic and it’s all nicely controlled by the preference to film indoors on period decorated sets. Time period setting is done through the use of historical clips detailing Hitler’s campaign through Europe and instilling a sense of urgency and dread into the story as the Nazis march ever closer with no concrete breakthroughs made. The story itself moves along at a decent clip with a solid focus on invention and a suitably light tone throughout.
Overall, a really nice, well told story about one of the less celebrated breakthroughs in history. The film really hammers home how instrumental the Radar was in The Battle of Britain where British fighters were outnumbered 3:1 but managed to win the day due to the invention of Radar which is now a standard means of detection and has been for many years. A nice celebration of an important historical event and worth watching when it appears on tv.