In East Anglia, 1943, the crew of an American B17 bomber prepare for their 25th daylight mission: if they return alive, it'll be a record and they'll be whisked back to the States for a propaganda tour. Inspired by real-life events covered in Wyler's WWII documentary The Memphis Belle, this David Puttnam production may not be the most original movie around, but at least Caton-Jones steers through the stock situations with verve and panache. Aided by uniformly sturdy performances (Modine and Strathairn are particularly fine as the pilot and commanding officer), he even carries off such Hawksian moments as Modine's moonlit monologue to his plane, and achieves a genuine mood of claustrophobia, vulnerability and danger in the airborne scenes, while never giving way to bogus jingoism. Admittedly, one could do with less of the dog and 'Oh Danny Boy'; and towards the end, the story's sheer eventfulness risks tipping the tone into self-parody. For the most part, though, this is sensitive, gripping, oddly old-fashioned cinema.
Cast and crew