Piece of cake!
11 April 2020
Upon its release this enjoyed tremendous success critically and commercially but has sadly become one of David Lean's 'forgotten' films. This is a great pity as he has here achieved the perfect balance between matter-of-factness and emotional impact. This is aided not inconsiderably by the marvellous screenplay of Terence Rattigan who writes so well for actors and the score of Malcolm Arnold in this, his first collaboration with Lean. One of the hallmarks of a great director is the instinct of when to use and when not to use music. The absence of music is especially effective in the devastating sequence of Tony's final test flight. The perfomances are all out of the top drawer. Lean was apparently reluctant to use Ralph Richardson but was very impressed with the finished performance and used his talents again in 'Dr. Zhivago'. He fully deserved his British Academy award as JR, loosely based on de Havilland. Some considered Nigel Patrick a little too slick and lightweight to play a test pilot but we care what happens to his character which is all that really matters. This is easily the best of the three performances that Ann Todd gave for Lean although he is supposed to have remarked to a colleague: 'never put your wife in a film'. Her scenes with Richardson are fabulous and their troubled relationship beautifully written and played. There is a first-class performance also from John Justin who coincidentally served as a test pilot and flying instructor in WW2. This film succeeds in packing a punch whilst avoiding any melodramatics and needs to be filed under 'sorely in need of reappraisal'.
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