The true account of Dr Barnes Wallis (Michael Redgrave) and his incredible bouncing bombs makes for a riveting slice of cinema.
The British are desperate to hit the steel-producing Ruhr Valley where it hurts and blowing the dams could cripple the German war effort. But no plane is yet big enough to carry the estimated 30 ton bomb needed and the accuracy demanded is almost impossible to achieve.
These incredible odds are dealt with an 'upper lip' attitude so stiff that pride is never under question despite the many setbacks that lie ahead.
Wallis diligently works away trying to perfect a bomb that can skip along the water before finally smacking right into the dam. Meanwhile, Whitehall creates a load of red tape. And a squadron of gung-ho but eminently polite pilots work day and night to perfect the skills they'll need for this dangerous mission.
This absorbing background takes up nearly two thirds of the film and ensures that once it's time for the raid you're firmly fixed to the edge of your seat.
Nail-biting tension takes over as the pilots make their way to Germany with Wallis pacing anxiously as he waits to hear if his inspired scheme can actually work. Meanwhile, the audience is treated to brilliant footage of low flying Lancasters flying at speed with enemy fire enveloping our heroes, with some destined never to make it back.
On paper "The Dam Busters" is exciting but the film works brilliantly in allowing the suspense to slowly build as the viewer invests their hopes and fears into this remarkable story. The reward is a slick conclusion that rattles along at a pace that would put many Hollywood blockbusters to shame.