27 May 2003 | sep1051
Difficulty Balancing Comedy And Drama
While I am a fan of British movies, particularly comedies of the 1950s and 1960s, I was not familiar with this movie. However I had warm expectations given the cast led by the usually dependable John Gregson and Muriel Pavlow. The movie concerns a British air force base that is activated as a training facility. Requiring a target range the government conscripts a nearby marsh, the Island of Children, for that purpose. The marsh is a wildlife habitat principally for birds (hence title Conflict of Wings between birds and aircraft). Obviously the local inhabitants, led by native daughter Muriel Pavlow and an assortment of colorful character actors (i.e. Niall MacGinnis, Frederick Piper), lead a fight to save the marsh. This leads to conflict with her boyfriend, airman John Gregson, as well as the base commander Kieron Moore. Combining comedy and drama is difficult and here it doesn't really succeed. There is almost a sub-genre of British comedies about colorful locals rising up (i.e. Passport To Pimlico, Titfield Thunderbolt). However, in all instances, the enemy are incompetent bureaucrats or buffoons. Here the air force is shown as capable, concerned but committed to their responsibilities. Periodically Kieron Moore is required to look out into mid-space and give a speech about the need for military preparedness, with appropriate references to just past crisises in Korea and Malaysia. The fact that decent people have to make difficult choices may be more representative of real life but it is less satisfying in reel life. Here the shifting between comic efforts and near tragic efforts by the the local population results in an uneven and ultimately unsatisfying cinema experience. Acting is generally good and technical credits, including color photography of the marsh, are also good.