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The Few
Directed by Bryan Singer
Produced by Ian Bryce
Written by Bryan Singer
Screenplay by
Story by
Based on The Battle of Britain
Ray Holmes
Starring Michael Fassbender
Jude Law
Michael Caine
Ian Glen
Katie McGrath
Jim Broadbent
Maisie Williams
Mads Mikkelsen
David Tennant
Conleth Hill
Daisy Ridley
Ian McDarmid
Evanna Lynch
Ruth Jones
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Michael Kahn
Editing by Michael Kahn
Production company(s) Mutual Film Company
Distributor Paramount Pictures (USA)
20th Century Fox (International)
Release date(s) July 10 2010
Running time 113 minutes
Language English
Budget $46 million
Gross revenue $560 million
Preceded by
Followed by
External links

The Few is a 2010 action war drama film written and directed by Bryan Singer and based on the true story of British war hero and ace pilot Ray Holmes and his involvement in the Battle of Britain. It stars Michael Fassbender as Holmes, Jude Law as Noel Agazarian and has a supporting cast of Michael Caine, Ian GlenKatie McGrath, Jim Broadbent, Maisie Williams, Mads Mikkelsen, Conleth Hill, Daisy Ridley, David Tennant, Ian McDarmid, Evanna Lynch and Ruth Jones. It was released in honour of the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

The film was released on July 10th 2010 to British and American audiences simultaneously, and was a major box office success, grossing $560 million out of its $46 million budget. It was met with critical acclaim for its score, dialogue, emotional depth, themes, direction and the ensemble cast - specifically the performances of Fassbender, Law, Williams, McGrath and Broadbent. It won several awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Fassbender) and Best Score (Williams).

Plot

During a ferocious air raid, Sergeant Ray Holmes rescues Captain Gerold Fletcher from a nursing home that is about to be bombed, narrowly pulling him away from the building before the bomb hits. Gerold is devastated by seeing his mother die and Ray holds him as he laments in front of the building's remains. The next day, Gerold has to be roused from an alcohol-induced sleep by his wife Fiona, and he is offered administrative leave to mourn, but he refuses because he wants to continue fighting in the RAF. He drinks with Ray, explaining that his faith and duty has been shaken by the loss, and that his father's apathy to the loss doesn't help. When a group of drunks mock Gerold with the name 'Jerry' (The nickname for the Germans), the latter instigates a bar fight and Ray tries to break it up, only to be attacked himself.

The fight is pulled apart by Flying Officer Noal Agazarian, who befriends Ray and threatens the drunks with arrest for their behaviour if they continue. He buys the pilots a drink and they exchange stories of their flying accomplishments - Ray in particular is awed by the newcomer's stories. They are called to base by Gerold's father, General Sir Bryan Fletcher of the RAf, who puts them to intense training in preparation for an upcoming German attack. During the training, Ray impresses Noel and meets with his wife and daughter Celia, who entertains the three of them with her maverick attitude to the war. Fiona argues with Gerold, and he promises that he is mentally fine, but she is unconvinced and worried. She is approached by radio personality Jane Whiteley, and she volunteers to speak some day on her channel.

At Number 10 Downing Street, Winston Churchill meets with General Fletcher and Air Marshall Dowding, detailing news of a German spy in the War Rooms and enlists Dowding to root out the spy. At the same time, Noel encounters Air Vice Marshall Keith Park, and the two of them quickly cross swords over their flying ideology. Park details that they are under Gerold's command and then brings Fiona over, who speaks with Ray and Noel privately. She asks that they look after him - she is worried that him being a pilot after his mother is killed is a worrying prospect. Ray promises solemnly that they will do what they can to protect him. On the way back, Noel befriends Lieutenant Keynes who plays chess with him for the evening. That very evening, another air raid occurs and Gerold suffers a panic attack. During the air raid, scouts volunteer Selena Whiteley is injured when a shard of shrapnel paralyses her right leg, but she insists on continuing her work.

While helping to nurse Selena, Fiona meets Cameron Simmons and soon befriends him and his wife. Seeing that his wife is getting on with other people, Gerold expresses that she and his daughter are the only thing he has left to hope for - he has quickly lost hope for his ambivalent father. During training, Ray cockily rushes a flying manoeuvre and almost crashes, earning a ferocious tirade from Dowding, whom he nicknames 'Stuffy' for his humourless nature. He is accosted also by Park, but Park notes that Ray is a proficient pilot. Ray returns to his flat, where Celia breaks in and stubbornly questions him about her father's behaviour. He explains his promise to her mother, and she is eventually satisfied. On the way back, Celia narrowly escapes being arrested for violating blackout regulations, but Lieutenant Keynes appears on scene and guides her back to her house.

Churchill learns from Fletcher that they are no closer to finding the spy, and then sits him down and sympathises with the fact that he has lost his wife - Fletcher refrains from being aggressive in his denial, since he is talking to his Prime Minister, but it is clear that he is more broken than he appears. Radar stations along the coast detect Luftwaffe squadrons, who smash several such stations, alerting the War Rooms and allowing for them to make preparations for the upcoming assault. All available pilots are summoned to the hangars and Ray helps Gerold lead their fighters up against the first squadron. After a suspenseful game of cat and mouse between the RAF and the Luftwaffe, the Battle of Britain commences and several British pilots are gunned down. Noel's wing is damaged, but he is able to continue flying. Celia watches the battle from the ground, awed, until she is dragged inside by her mother and put to praying for her father's survival.

From the War Rooms, Dowding commands Park to route around the city himself in order to inspect the air balloons, but Gerold volunteers to do so instead. During the inspection, three Luftwaffe planes appear and ambush him. Ray and Noel try to come to his rescue, but Noel is waylaid by another squadron of German spitfires. Ray destroys one of the planes, but the other two manage to damage the fuel tank of Gerold's plane before being gunned down by anti-aircraft fire. Jane Whiteley details the events so far from her radio station, until she learns that Selena, who is revealed to be her sister, has been injured and abruptly ends the show to visit her in hospital, where Selena insists she is fine and rushes back to the scouts to continue helping run the group. Pressured by her sister's injury, Jane sees Gerold's ship crash in a nearby field. Gerold is found, having parachuted prematurely, hanging from a tree, both harms broken and himself heavily concussed. While he is being transported to hospital, Churchill delivers his famous We Shall Never Surrender speech on the radio.

When hearing that Gerold has crashed and has been mortally injured, Fiona screams, waking up her daughter, who learns of what happened and tries to comfort her mother. When he hears what happened to his son, Fletcher flies into a rage and trashes his office, where Keynes sates him and helps rearrange his office. Dowding visits him and Fletcher becomes suspicious of Dowding's behaviour, believing that he is the spy. Keynes offers to observe the Air Marshall for Fletcher, who agrees. Meanwhile, Ray and Noel land back at the airfield and Ray punches a wall in rage for seeing Gerold crash, but Noel sates him. Park is stunned by the effect Gerold's injury has created, and laments that he should have forced the young man into administrative leave of absence before the battle. Celia calls Ray out of the airfield and then rants that he had promised to protect her father, and Ray narrowly manages to calm her down.

In hospital and comatose, Gerold is visited by his father, who apologises for distancing himself from his son. Meanwhile, Keynes shadows Dowding, but when the man is gone he sneaks into the general's office and steals several documents, revealing that he is the double agent. He duplicates the documents privately and makes a wireless phone call to German Luftwaffe headquarters. Ray and Noel return to the skies the next day and, over several weeks, they manage to hold back the Luftwaffe, with Park giving them glowing reports to Dowding, who begins to realise the value of these men as pilots. Meanwhile, Cameron continues to comfort Fiona and her daughter, who still refuses to pray with her because of her atheist attitude. Ray visits Gerold in the hospital every week, promising that they will one day drink a bottle of wine to celebrate the end of the war.

Churchill argues with Dowding as to what their next move will be, violently supporting his opinion that they must continue fighting off the Luftwaffe instead of holding back to reserve their ammunition. Ray and Noel lose several planes in a dogfight, but Noel's plane crashes and he escapes from the wreck without any serious injury. Ray goes to church and talks to the vicar there, who assures him that, even if he gives his life in service to his country, he will be remembered by all as a brave young man trying to overcome frightening circumstances. When he leaves, Celia appears and kneels by the cross - for the first time in her life, she prays, delivering an emotional speech about how she has never observed religion seriously, until what has happened to her father has altered her perspective that they will need all the help that they can get. Fiona walks in on her daughter praying, and smiles.

Keynes is caught duplicating more documents by Park - Keynes attacks Park and tries to escape, and the Home Guard are deployed to try and stop him. He escapes the War Rooms and runs into Celia, who sees the documents and theorises that he is stealing documents. She steals his gun, but he disarms her and they struggle brutally. Though she manages to damage his cheek and give him a black eye, he proves stronger and tries to strangle Celia. Cameron arrives and shoots Keynes in the back, killing him and rescuing Celia. However, a pompous ARP warden named Cooper appears and arrests Celia for blackout violations. At the police station, Cameron ferociously defends Celia and persuades Cooper to let her go, as she is clearly in shock from being in close proximity to a man getting shot while he was strangling her.

In October, the combat in the sky is not going well and they are losing multiple planes and the availability of several skilled pilots. Fiona agrees to appear on Jane's show, and Selena comes to watch with a recovered Celia. Fiona speaks emotionally in an interview between her and Jane, which makes a tear streak from Celia's eyes at seeing Fiona open up for the first time about her emotions. Noel hears the interview on the radio and smiles. Ray takes to the skies in late October with Noel and Park, and they battle the Luftwaffe more fiercely. After a long, brutal crossfire between the RAF and the Luftwaffe, Ray's wing is damaged and he spots a Messerschmidt bomber heading for Buckingham Palace. After a suspenseful chase, Ray tries to fire on the plane but he is out of ammunition. Desperate, Ray smashes into the plane, splitting it in half before it could attack the palace. His plane horribly damaged by the collision, Ray launches out of his plane and struggles to launch his parachute. Climactically, he deploys the parachute and floats into somebody's back garden.

The Battle of Britain is won, and Ray Holmes is welcomed back to the airfield like a hero, reuniting with Noel. Gerold wakes up in hospital and sees his wife, daughter and father sitting by his bed. As the country rejoices in the triumph, Churchill goes on the radio and delivers the speech that is famously titled as "The Few", describing the small number of RAF pilots who prevailed against the Luftwaffe. As Churchill gives the speech, screen captions explain that Sergeant Raymond Holmes survived the war as a legendary flying ace, before he died in 2005 of cancer, while Noel was shot down in 1941, Park lived in New Zealand until his death in 1975 and Dowding in 1970. While Churchill's speech draws to its legendary close, the last shot of the film is in 1945, during VE day, when Ray and Gerold drink a toast before a sunset on the airfield, just as Ray had promised they would over four years ago.

Cast

  • Michael Fassbender as Sergeant Raymond Holmes, a courageous, pragmatic and charismatic ace pilot and future war hero.
  • Jude Law as Flying Officer Noel Agazarian, an arrogant but fearless and inspiring flying legend who befriends Ray after a bar fight.
  • Michael Caine as General Sir Bryan Fletcher, a major general in the RAF who is the father of Captain Fletcher and who helps direct the RAF during the Battle.
  • Ian Glen as Captain Gerold Fletcher, a fighter pilot in command of Ray's squadron with a loving family and a promising career, but a sense of warped duty after his mother was killed at the climax of an air raid.
  • Katie McGrath as Fiona Fletcher, Captain Fletcher's wife and a butcher across the street from where Ray lives. She is a devout Christian who constantly prays for her husband's survival.
  • Jim Broadbent as Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain during the War. Broadbent had to undergo continuous makeup in order to look the part of the legendary wartime leader.
  • Maisie Williams as Celia Fletcher, Captain Fletcher's rebellious and maverick daughter and former atheist who befriends Ray and eventually accepts prayer for her father's life.
  • Mads Mikkelsen as Air Vice Marshall Keith Park, a hardened and ambivalent military general who commands the RAF. Park is a prolific fighter pilot who is shrewd and calculating by nature, earning both animosity and respect from his pilots.
  • David Tennant as Lieutenant Spencer Keynes, a military officer who works tirelessly in the War Rooms and is revealed to be a double agent for the Luftwaffe in return for boosted ration cards.
  • Conleth Hill as Cameron Simmons, a member of the Home Guard who once served in the army during the First World War and befriends Celia during the Battle.
  • Ian McDiarmid as Air Marshall Hugh 'Stuffy' Dowding, a cold and humourless but highly efficient commander of the RAF who orchestrates the battle from the War Rooms.
  • Daisy Ridley as Jane Whiteley, a famed and popular radio personality who brings news of the Battle of Britain to the country.
  • Evanna Lynch as Selena Whiteley, Jane's younger sister who is a volunteer at the scouts, who is wounded in one of the bombings but continues to try and run the scouts on her own.
  • Ruth Jones as Mrs Simmons, Cameron's wife who runs a butcher's shop and joins Jane on the radio to help inspire Britain to persevere.
  • Mark Sheppard as ARP Warden Cooper, a workaholic member of the ARP who apprehends Celia for being out after the blackout.
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