EIFF 2010: Jackboots On Whitehall review

It's got a dose of Team America. A bit of Braveheart. Nazis invading London. And a whole host of laughs. Carl checks out Jackboots On Whitehall...

What would you get if you crossed World War II films, Team America, Robot Chicken and Braveheart? Well, you would probably get Jackboots On Whitehall.

Using puppetry and computer animation, we are told a ‘what if’ story about Nazis invading London and taking over. However, it has humble beginnings, as it starts on a village on the English coast which is having a fair. Here we learn all about a lot of the main characters, including the lead, a large-handed man named Chris, voiced by Ewan McGregor, who always feels a bit like an outcast because he is different. We also get to meet a few others who play big parts in the story, including Daisy (Rosamund Pike), The Vicar (Richard E Grant) and Tom (Stephen Merchant).

Meanwhile, at number 10 Downing Street, we get to meet a fairly familiar face, Winston Churchill, voiced by none other than Timothy Spall, as well as the leader of the Indian soldiers, Rupee (Sanjeev Bhaskar). And it doesn’t stop there, of course, as we later meet Himmler (Richard O’Brien), Goebbels (Tom Wilkinson), Hermann Goering (Richard Griffiths) and last, but not least, Hitler (Alan Cumming).

Back at the village, it’s a lovely day and everyone is having a good time, that is, until the Nazis fly over on a Zeppelin and start to attack. However, everyone gets their guns in a flash and shoots the bugger down, leaving everyone particularly pleased with themselves. The feeling doesn’t last long, as the Nazis hatch a new plan in the wake of that failure: to burrow under London and take them by surprise. Since, in this particular scenario, all the British troops are stuck in France, it’s particularly successful and the Nazis take over London.

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And that’s roughly only the first half an hour of the movie. Along with most of the film, the introduction particularly grabs your attention, as spitfires go up against Nazi planes, and not all survive. This is a particularly fun film, but it is quite dumb in its humour, so be prepared to be laughing out loud one minute and groaning about how silly it was in making you laugh. There are some particularly brilliant scenes, especially toward the end, which had the entire crowd falling about laughing.

As for the style and effort that goes into the puppetry here, it’s actually incredibly impressive. It may be on a small scale, but it is grand in the way it does it. Almost an entire countryside seems to have been created just for one over the hill shot to introduce the village. There’s also some superb attention to detail, as when you are in close shots on characters and items, the detail is impeccable. The whole style of this is very close to being the ‘action man with moving mouth’ of Robot Chicken, but it gives it a whole lot more depth that is easy to notice and be impressed by.

Now, for this film, they do take liberties with history quite a bit. For instance, and I wasn’t sure whether I should be mad about this or not, they paint the Scottish as primitive and even timidly refer to the country as ‘Scot Land’ as if they have never had many dealings with its inhabitants. When you get to meeting them in the film, however, you understand why it’s been done like this, and to be fair it had me in fits of laughter. Then again, it also paints most English people as either posh and stupid or farmers who you can barely understand, so it’s fair to say they’re going after no-one here, and just having a laugh.

This film is so damn funny that I would defy anyone to watch it and not laugh. It’s also got an impressive and well working cast who give their all to their voice acting here, as well as an absolutely outstanding creative team making all of the items and characters in the film come alive. It’s a superb little gem of a film that gave me some of the best fun I’ve had in a cinema for a while, and to be honest, I was thinking it was going to be terrible!


4 out of 5