Published on February 11th, 2007 | by Chris0
Air Force (1943)
Ah context. Context is everything, especially when you're watching war films of this era. You've got the Hayes office, the Dept. of War, and in the end, you get propaganda films like 1943's Air Force.
Of course, that's not to say that this is a bad film. On the contrary, this is actually quite a good movie. I really wasn't expecting it to be as good as it was. You actually "get to know" the crew of the Mary-Ann, a B-17 that was (well, in this movie anyway) part of the group that was on its way to Hickham Field on Dec. 7, 1941. The attachment to this crew you'll develop is pretty impressive.
You'll follow the crew all the way from before Hawaii, all the way to their involvement in the attack on a Japanese fleet on their way to Australia. It's funny, too, how they make a special point to call out the importance and "secret-ness" of the Norden bomb sights and how they can't fall into enemy hands... during the height of the war in 1943! Surprised "they" let that pass the censors!
Also impressive are the special effects here, especially considering the time this was made. You'll find yourself believing most of it. Sure there are several shots where the models are evident, but there are quite a few that make you wonder. And the interspersing of the effects shots with actual stock footage is nearly imperceptible.
And, yes, this film is historically *in*accurate. A lot of the events never took place, or didn't happen as portrayed, sure. That's not the point. The point of this film was to get people "on our side" and in that it succeeds wildly.
All of the acting is fair-to-good. I really can't flaw anyone on their performances here. Not too much anyway. And its actually pretty "raw" for a film of its time.
So if you're in the market for a good "Saturday Matinee" style war movie, Air Force is just the ticket.
PS: When I saw this on Turner Classic Movies, it was followed by an interesting 1943 propaganda newsreel called 'Plan For Destruction.' It was a surprisingly long and academic (if overly dramatic) look at Germany's rise to power in the 30's and 40's, and some of the causes for it. It made a nice bookend for the movie. Glad to see things like this come "off the shelf" once and a while. You can just imagine movie audiences watching this movie, jeering the Japs and cheering our boys, and then watching this bit and coming out mad-as-hell!!
Air Force [VHS]
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There was no better director than Howard Hawks at depicting group action. Because of his sense of character and pacing, Air Force transcends its propaganda purpose. It's well crafted all the way around, from the acting to the writing to the aerial fighting to James Wong Howe's painstakingly striking cinematography...
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Summary: The point of this film was to get people "on our side" and in that it succeeds wildly.