24 July 2010 | klavss
A fine look at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War
Dragon Rapide was an ordinary, small private De Havilland DH-89 aircraft that played an important role in the outbreak of the 2nd Spanish Civil War in July 1936. It was chartered in London by the part of the military conspirators who were about to rise in rebellion against the legitimate Republican government (communist, de facto, since the advent of the Popular Front) with the mission to fly discreetly to the Canary Islands to take General Franco from here to Spanish North Africa (Morocco nowadays) to meet the bulk of the rebel faction of the army he'll eventually lead through three dramatic years of civil war until the rendition of the capital, Madrid.
The movie opens showing the weeks prior to the military uprising and how the conspirators react and complete their plans. Some of the highest ranked generals (Franco, Mola, Goded, Fanjul) are of course men who were conservative, religious and raised in the traditional values. They (as about half of the Spanish population and Military) are growing increasingly worried about the reign of terror that is becoming Spain under the atrocities made by the armed and uncontrolled communist militias and the lack of interest and authority of the Republican government to stop them. Finally, the generals make the decision to go ahead with the uprising and to protect the Nation... even against the legitimate Government.
If you are not Spanish, just consider this: In your standard Civil War there is a geographical factor: North against South, East vs West and so on, but in the case of Spain it was mostly a political and moral gap that made the difference: It was lefts vs rights and that implied religion versus laicism/atheism... so in many many cases the civil war divided tragically families, cities and neighborhoods, fathers against sons, brothers vs. sisters.
The Spanish politic and social factors involved in the Civil War and its causes and consequences are much too complex to be fully analized in the film or in this humble synopsis. Even today the wounds of the Civil War (1936-39) and the subsequent 36 years of military government/dictatorship under Franco (1939-1975) are so fresh in every individual, in every family on both sides. It is still a hot and conflictive subject where little objectivity is achieved: There is no political "center" on Spain, just Lefts and Rights. I was born 34 years ago, just when Franco died, and even many people of my generation have grandfathers and elder relatives who fought and/or died and/or were imprisoned in both sides, so opinions use to be so HOT.
Due to the complex background of the Civil War some very important factors on it are not shown at all and others are shown or explained only slightly, but that's not the intention of this movie - it's not a documentary after all. In general terms I must say it is a quite impartial, fair version of both sides' points of view - just a little bit lefty, but definitely far more impartial than the bulk of movies made about Spanish Civil War in Spain and abroad. It is the only film that I can recall that reflects the very important fact that Franco was not the only high-ranking General that was involved, and he had roughly about half of the military and the people with him The depictions of Generals Franco and Mola are well portrayed and their motivations are seen and explained with a fair objectivity. In the average lefty Spanish movie all the National side from Franco to the last soldier are just insane nazi bad guys with the only interest of killing and causing terror withour reason - just like Freddy Krueger or Leatherface. That's totally unfair and that's ABSOLUTELY not historically true and that's not funny or interesting neither. Right or wrong, they were exceptionally prepared generals and intelligent individuals and their decisions were so complex and painful - to go to war against half of their own country, which they swore to protect. All those movies done from political resentment lose that juicy main point from the very beginning, considering only one side of the story (THEIR side, of course).
In all, the main, "high-level" political and historical facts are well intertwined with the smaller layer composed by the individual characters and their minor stories, helplessly caught in the unstoppable spiral of violence of a divided country that they know will lead to a civil war. The costumes and props also show a good job, without excess - the atmosphere created looks like an adequate recreation of the Spanish 1930's. A nice, clean, well-balanced movie in general terms, in my humble opinion.