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Randall 'Tex' Cobb,
A naive young officer straight from school arrives on the Western front to fight the air war against the Germans. However, the life expectancy of green pilots is not very good. Written by
Orde Saunders <ODS101@York.ac.uk>
I remember "Aces High" when it was released in Argentina (1977. Since then I had the opportunity of watching it twice on video. For me is an excellent example that you still can produce a great film even if the subject (WWI) has been treated dozens of times. Although I have not read "Journey's End" I did read many factual accounts of the air war on the Western Front during WWI and the spirit of those terrible years has been faithfully re-created. Malcom McDowell proves, once a again, what an excellent actor he is and the rest of the cast is as good as him.
The character played by Simon Ward, is one of the most moving and important within the film. This was brought to my attention last year when, watching a documentary about the Battle of Britain, I saw a former Hurricane pilot telling how depressed he was by the terribly high casualty-rate that he decided to stop making friends,since more likely they shall be dead within a fortnight. With this in mind Simon Ward's performance has deeper meaning. It is not only that he is haunted by the idea of his inevitable death, he doesn't want to make friends because he has lost too many.
The scene where Malcom McDowell throws a party to celebrate the arrival of "his" prisoner (the German pilot)would seem strange if not ridiculous to those who do not have a certain knowledge of the mentality of the European aristocracy, who formed the backbone of the officer-class in those days. According to them war was a gentlemanly affair were certain principles should be observed; one of them was the corteous treatment of prisoners (as long as they belong the same class)particularly if they had fought bravely. The concept was already an anachronism in 1914 where the colossal scale of the slaughter and its horrendous impersonality made the illusion of "the noble duel" obsolete if not ridiculous BUT, there was the aeroplane, a chance to move the clock back to the days of aristocratic man-to-man fights, a chance to escape the modern, faceless and industrialized murder of trench warfare. That's why WWI fighter pilots (all of them gentlemen in the truest sense of the word) behaved in that way. This film is also a very sad reminder of the destruction of a whole world that, with all its defects, had some very valuable principles. Principles that nowadays most of people would laugh at, which is also very sad.
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