Produced by the RAF Film Unit with much the same brief as Powell and Pressburger's A Matter of Life and Death, Boulting's first feature opted for semi-documentary rather than fantasy. Terence Rattigan's script follows three aspiring pilots (Attenborough, Watling, Tomlinson) through training in Britain, America and Canada, thereby paying tribute to Allied cooperation without fuss or fanfare, while national idiosyncrasies are amusingly acknowledged in a scene where an American instructor (Robinson) and his wife (Love) entertain two of the trainees to dinner. The focus is on the scope and stresses of the training programme, with only one of the trio (Watling) making the grade. The script comes perilously close to convention in detailing Attenborough's tribulations (he's the working-class lad), but comes back on course with a detailed, superbly handled account of the preparations made by a crippled bomber's crew before it is ditched in the sea. With most of the cast serving in the RAF at the time, the keynote is authenticity, and the film remains surprisingly effective.
Cast and crew
Edward G Robinson