Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome is such a timeless classic children's story that I was slightly concerned about how well it would come across in modern film format. I needn't have worried though - the movie, available on Blu-ray, DVD & digital download from December 12th 2016, courtesy of STUDIOCANAL, manages to retain the slightly olde-worlde, Enid Blytonesque atmosphere but introduce characters that will appeal to modern viewers. The storyline, with Britain on the brink of war, has a subtext that will intrigue adults while probably going straight above the heads of the younger audience, and the outdoor adventures will delight kids (and big kids!) of all ages.
The film tells the story of the Walker children, who, along with their mother (Kelly Macdonald - Brave, Anna Karenina), embark on a summer trip to the beautiful Lake District. Watching the film and seeing the stunning landscapes has made me really want to visit. Desperate to escape the tedium of their holiday, they are delighted to be allowed to sail out on their own aboard the marvellous Swallow. On their explorations, they land ashore a seemingly deserted island and claim it as their own. However, they soon realise that they are not alone, with two other children who captain their own vessel, Amazon, claiming the island to be theirs, leading to a battle of wits to determine who will triumph and take the island as their own.
While searching the island’s waters, the ‘Swallows’ also become intrigued by a mysterious man (Rafe Spall - The BFG, Life of Pi) who lives on a house boat and seems to be hiding a dark secret. With Britain on the brink of war, the children find themselves in the midst of an adventure quite different from what they had planned.
I didn't remember the Russian spies in the older TV and film versions of the book that I watched in my childhood, so I did my homework and it turns out that they a cleverly thought out and logical addition to the 2016 movie. The original Swallows and Amazons book was written in 1930, so Arthur Ransome couldn't have imagined the horrors to come in World War II. He was, however, a bit of an expert on the Soviets, was at one point suspected of being a double agent for Russia and worked for MI6, so, as the character of Jim Turner was always thought to have been, at least in part, inspired by the author himself, I think he would have approved of the Russian spies running amok around the Lake Dsistrict !
It is above all a heart-warming adventure for all the family to enjoy this Christmas, which will have kids dreaming of pirate adventures and adults looking nostalgically back at simpler times when camping trips, rough and tumble play and setting out exploring for the day with fruit cake and lashings of ginger beer were part and parcel of every summer holiday. Bear Grylls would definitely approve !
Swallows and Amazons Release Details
Digital & physical release date: December 12th, 2016
Running time: 97 mins
Price (DVD): £19.99
Price (Blu-ray): £24.99
Extra features: Bringing a Classic Tale to Life
Sailing With Crew
Interviews with Kelly Macdonald, Andrea Gibb and Rafe Spall
Disclosure : We received a copy of the DVD in order to write an honest review.