In the only part of Britain occupied by the Nazis during WWII, the nightmare began in June 1940. Hitler's army invaded the defenseless Channel Islands and held its residents hostage for five years. What would any of us do ... more »if we had to live side by side with the enemy? This Masterpiece Theatre drama draws on the real experiences of Channel Islanders as the hostile Nazi command imposed its will on every aspect of their daily lives. Set on the fictional island of St. Gregory, the story of the occupation is told through the eyes of three families. Heart-pounding suspense and unexpected romance unfold in an atmosphere suffused with the moral ambiguity of war. Starring James Wilby (Gosford Park), Clare Holman (Prime Suspect 6), Philip Glenister (Calendar Girls), and Saskia Reeves (Dune). Recommended for mature audiences.« less
This is an updated take on the "Enemy at the Door" series, which was also great. Filmed on location in the Isle of Man in 2003. Six 70 minute episodes. Although highly successful during its initial transmission (more so in America) the series ended, somewhat abruptly, although I didn't find it too off-putting. I thought it rather appropriate. The series ending was due to the writer Stephen Mallatratt's death from cancer shortly after the series broadcast. Coupled with the high production cost, and controversy of historical accuracy (the programme caused outrage among many people who accused the producers of distorting Guernsey history), meant the series came to an end. Each episode cost around 1.5 million dollars (in pounds) to produce. Definitely worth a watch!
Excellent production, but be aware that...
R.L. Holly | Austin, TX USA | 03/03/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This BBC series is well written and well acted, and the Isle of Man location works perfectly as a substitute for the Channel Islands, but I would caution buyers that the series ends a bit abruptly, still in mid-war, with many plotlines dangling and unresolved. This is not a little frustrating, and causes me to subtract a star from what I would otherwise be inclined to award. The problem is one of conception -- this program was originally designed to continue for a second series, so the first batch of episodes ties up one plotline while leaving the rest in stasis as cliffhangers to draw viewers back for more. Bad idea! This is what I was told by my local PBS station: The series was evidently not as well received in the UK as hoped for and a second series was never produced. To make things worse, the screenwriter died. This leaves us with, unfortunately, a fascinating story with a very fine beginning and middle but no true ending. I suspect other viewers will be equally disappointed. Just like the animated Ralph Bakshi version of The Lord of the Rings story, half a movie is almost worse than no movie at all.
What there is is great, but be prepared to never know what finally happens to most of the chief characters. It's like sitting down to what looks like a wonderful, lavish meal and then having to leave the table after the first course. "
Exhibit A For Why The British Make Better TV Than Americans
Goodbye Cruel World | Under Your Skin | 09/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Island At War sits among the top of the many films that have recently appeared on the subject of the Second World War. Its setting, a fictional channel island called St. Gregory, lies much closer to France than to the British mainland, yet it and the other channel islands are totally British in sympathy, language, and political affiliation. In 1940, St. Gregory is portrayed as being captured by a German expeditionary force, as are the other channel islands, and the proudly British citizens there face an occupation by foreign hostiles. While their countrymen wage brave resistance to the German onslaught, those living on the islands must, willingly or not, submit to their foes. Presenting an interesting example of how a German occupation of the United Kingdom might have been carried out had Operation Sea Lion successfully achieved an undertaking that has otherwise proven impossible since 1066, that of defeating the British at war on their home soil, Island At War makes for the sort of motion picture that quickly and deeply draws in an intelligent viewer.
What makes this 6 ½ hour film so engrossing is not only the realism of its hypothetical answer to the question of how a German occupation of Britain would very probably have gone (stifling but much more respectful than German occupations elsewhere) but it is the depth of the characters presented. Where in other hands this could easily have disintegrated into caricatures of evil, jackbooted Nazis inhumanly repressing a purely good English population, instead we are challenged to see the humanity of both sides. Though often harshly restrictive and almost always haughtily loyal to the cause for which they fight, members of the German occupying force at times act with genuine decency toward the people of St. Gregory. Conversely, some of the locals on the island conduct themselves in ways that are less than honorable. There is also the matter of fraternization. We look on as interaction with an enemy for profit, personal gain, and in some instances out of a true sense of affection becomes increasingly the norm. A local girl reluctantly falls in love with a soft-spoken Luftwaffe navigator. A German officer offers a talented local girl a chance to sing in a soldier's cabaret, and later defends her against an attack by drunken townsmen. A bitter storekeeper, whose husband's death in an air raid marked the island's sole casualty during the invasion, begins a highly profitable black market goods partnership with a well-connected German. The island's commandant, Baron von Rheingarten, while a proud German officer, is by no means a thuggish Nazi yes-man, and his multi-layered interaction with the Dorr family, St. Gregory's politically-connected gentry, evolves from initial rivalry to his later showing the deepest act of magnanimity of the entire film. It is all much more of an affront to the convenient black and white wartime morality that is the standard when portraying a story set in this time and place.
Island At War is a truly fine production start to finish that will prove as appealing to a lover of good television as it will to any open-minded individual with an interest in the events of the Second World War."
Great story and very interesting perspective on WWII
andreas838 | Geneva, Switzerland | 05/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Most WWII movies focus on the action in the main theatres of combat. Recently, I purchased an atlas which described what went on around the world during WWII even in countries which the history books didn't cover. 'Island at War' is such a study of the Channel Islands (located between France & England) and delivers a very interesting perspective on WWII while telling the story of several characters. It's highly recommendable, but I do warn you that it will leave you wishing for more episodes to explain actually what happened to the characters later."
Good series, some mistakes
Balaurul | 06/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I thoroughly enjoyed Island At War: the plot was riveting and addictive, the acting more than decent, and the emotion excellently portrayed so the viewer can both relate to the characters and better understand how being in such a situation would have felt.
Island At War is about the invasion of the Channel Islands (more specifically, the fictional island of St. Gregory) by the Germans during World War II. The invasion begins in 1940, but most unfortunately, the series was discontinued and we're never quite sure when the invasion ends.
The series follows the lives of several families trapped on St. Gregory after the initial evacuations, which was mostly made up of the island's children and those who were persecuted by the Nazis. (Jews, etc.) An excellent job is done throughout of having the character's lives entertwine, which gives one the impression that the story is not so much about seperate people but the island as a whole.
Many twists are thrown in to make the plot so engaging: a Jewish girl attempts to hide her identity, a girl whose father was killed in the initial bombing of the island falls in love with a Heinkel navigator, and two spies arrive on the island to gather information for a British counterattack are among them. Because of the fast-paced storyline, I suggest renting as many of the three DVDs as possible or getting them all at once so you can go straight to the next episode. It's almost impossible not to--each ending is a cliffhanger.
The only complaint I had besides the abrupt ending was the historical inaccuracies. For example, the commandant of the island, Baron von Rheingarten, is wearing the German Cross in Gold, but such a decoration was not introduced until 1941 while the story very definitely begins in 1940. The one that really had me upset, however, was the presence of several references to being sent to the Russian Front. I have news for the scriptwriters: the Russian Front did not exist in 1940 as Germany would not be at war with Russia until 1941 in Operation Barbarossa! However, since they're not physically on the Russian Front in 1940, these errors do not detract overall from the plot and are really minor details in the actual story.
I would definitely advise seeing Island At War for anyone who enjoys history, an interesting, fast plot, and is able to take a jarringly abrupt ending that needs resolving. It really takes you deep into the minds of both the invaders and the invaded and allows you a small glimpse at a terrifying prospect: what if our own world was invaded by what we feared the worst?"
Island at War, Fabulous
Julianne M. Moore | 03/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If it were possible, I would give Island at War 10 stars. It is the most magnificent series the Brits have ever sent us, and I've seen a lot of them. I can't improve on the other reviews, except to say I too hope there is more of this, although I read that Stephen Mallatratt died tragically last November. Let's hope someone else can pick up where he left off, it is just way too good. The principals are absolutely marvelous, especially the Baron, Felicity, and James. I can't get enough of it. If it were a movie, I would give Philip Glenister an Oscar, his character development of the Baron is brilliant and an absolute delight. Thank you, thank you, thank you, to everyone involved in this great production... Julie Moore, Maine, USA"