The budget for a piece of crap like "Pearl Harbor" was $140 million. The budget for the equally fatuous "Titanic" was $200 million. That's a lot of money. A few years ago I read about all the aid "flowing from China into North Korea." The figure given was $250 million, not enough to cover two bloated CGI extravaganzas.
I think I must have written 250 million movie comments by now and I never thought I'd hear myself say, "I wish this production had a bigger budget." It only cost $6 million, and it shows.
The story is entertaining, educational, and sticks fairly closely to historical reality, or so I'd guess. It involves the inception, organization, and successful implementation of the cross-Atlantic ferry flights of war planes from Gander, Newfoundland, to English bases. It's rather nicely written, at an adult level, and rarely dull. There is, of course, a love story but it's nicely joined to the plot. The location shooting in Newfoundland is effective, even if washed out.
But the minimal budget of this TV mini-series detracts from its value. I'll just mention two of the obvious weaknesses. The computer-generated images are okay, in the sense that they get the job done. But evidently only one or two aircraft in flying condition were available. One is a Lockheed Hudson. It's not a very glamorous airplane and we see the same one over and over. And then a USAAF Liberator lands and, lo, it is a British Lancaster. The sets are minimal. Several scenes take place within the Hudson in flight, but the interiors look as if they were made of cardboard and we never do get to see the inside of the whole fuselage.
Of the performances, only two or three are memorable. One is Joss Ackland's Winston Churchill, bug-eyed, flabby, demanding, ironic. Another's is Richard E. Grant as Lord Beaverbrook's representative in Gander. He's charged with a most improbable task -- getting this ferry business off the ground -- and he always looks properly worried, as he should. But he's not a stereotype. He's not Harry Andrews, scowling and barking out orders, telling his staff to shape up. He looks more as if he's about to explode with uncertainty, beginning with his intense blue eyes popping out of his head.
The other interesting performance is by Liane Balaband who begins as a mere secretary, turns into Grant's major domo, and finds her true love with a quiet young man in her native Gander, while letting her dashing American pilot fly off to his own destiny. Balaband has a curious beauty. She has endearingly big ears, and when she smiles, all of her features seem to slant upwards to the right side of her face. It's as if someone had sliced her head in half along the sagittal plane and then put the two pieces back together slightly askew. She has no shoulders to speak of but when she minces along at her accustomed pace she shows a canty rear end. She's very sexy. And she's smoothly beautiful too, even her bony nose, rather like a brunette Cate Blanchett, if you know what I mean, but without the same measure of talent. I realize Balaban is a Canadian but she speaks something like a Valley Girl. Her utterances come in quick bursts full of hissing sibilants. She has one of the most expressive and magnetic presences in the movies.
The rest of the acting ranges from poor to acceptable. And the director has allowed some of them to overplay their hands. Beaverbrook could hardly have been so abrasive. Although, come to think of it, we see that he's been balling his pretty secretary right there in his office, so who knows? I appreciated that little bit of information. It adds dimension to his character.
It's an intelligent script but I do wish they'd had more money. It ought to be remade with a larger budget, but instead we'll see expensive remakes of "Titanic" and "Pearl Harbor." The Titanic will be pieced together and raised from the bottom of the ocean, and the last living survivor -- now 145 years old -- will hobble aboard and tell us the memories of her love affair with a humble stoker.
1 out of 2 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.