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History documentaries come in all shapes and sizes, but one of the best I've seen in a while is "Battle of Britain," a BBC production hosted by actor Ewan McGregor and his brother, Colin--a veteran British jet fight pilot. While trading brotherly barbs, the lads explore what a close thing it was back in 1940, when the German Luftwaffe softened up England for a full-scale invasion. Bombs rained down on coastal towns and London itself. For the documentary, the two visit many of the locales and interview the handful of fighter pilots surviving 70 years later. The real star is not the famous actor but the quiet and modest Colin, who goes through WWII pilot training and finally takes the controls of a Spitfire, a fighter that flies at 450 mph and was very advanced for its day. It was amazing to think that the young pilots were sent into combat with about the same amount of training he received. Along with the reverence and awe for actual events, there's a realistic interaction between the brothers that keeps this air war documentary nicely grounded.

Recommended by David Healey


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