It's May 1943 at a US Army Air Corps base in England. The four officers and six enlisted men of the Memphis Belle - a B-17 bomber so nicknamed for the girlfriend of its stern and stoic captain, Dennis Dearborn - will soon start their twenty-fifth mission, having completed their previous twenty-four successfully with nary an incident, while fewer and fewer other planes are coming back from their missions at all. If they complete their next mission successfully, they will be the first Army Air Corps B-17 Crew to complete their tour of duty. Visiting communications officer Lt. Col. Bruce Derringer wants to publicize and highly tout their accomplishment, even before it happens, as a long term good news campaign at a time when there is little good news to report. Derringer's plan is against the wishes of the base commander, Col. Craig Harriman, who would prefer to treat the ten as any of his other hard working men. The previous success of the Memphis Belle is despite the disparate natures ...Written by
Joe Giambrone was the crew chief of the "Belle". He kept the Belle Flying through six months of combat, replacing nine engines, both wings, two tails, both main landing gear assemblies and more. From Hulmeville, Pennsylvania, he retired as Construction Co. Office Manager. See more »
When the B-17s prepare to take off for their mission, one close-up on the runway reveals its pilots wearing modern headphones. See more »
For people of my generation childhood afternoons were often composed of spending Sunday afternoons watching Second World War movies where English speaking heroes gave stupid Germans a lesson in biting off more than they could chew . This gave a a somewhat erroneous view of history for the baby boomer generation . Americans were bullet proof apart from the one bloke who was engaged to get married who'd always snuff it in the final reel , the entire British military would be composed of John Mills and that other bloke while the Germans were invariably stupid and lousy shots . For my own part I became an aficionado of military history and redeemed myself by studying the war and came to the conclusion that Nazi Germany ( A regime that waged war as ruthlessly and effectively as it murdered undesirables ) was defeated by " British courage , American money and Soviet blood " in the words of Winston Churchill . Watching MEMPHIS BELLE I'm reminded how old fashioned everything is
Somewhat typically for a film that was made in Britain by a British production team and a British director it's financed by American money and therefore is made for an American market so revolves around an American aircrew flying a B-17 . Fair enough but couldn't the characters have mentioned that WW2 was a joint operation ? Watching this you'll be left thinking America was fighting alone . There's even a scene where the only British male character , a farmer , needs rescued by the American airforce
As for the cast they're almost unknown at the time . John Lithgow would be a recognisable face as would perhaps Matthew Modine . Some of the cast would become well known but this leads to a problem when the crew of the aircraft take their places . It's difficult to tell who is manning which position in the plane and you do feel perhaps that a better known cast would have improved things . Not to the point of A BRIDGE TOO FAR or THE LONGEST DAY type star vehicle , but enough to make you perhaps care a bit more for characters that end up faceless
The crew are on their 25th and final mission over Europe which means if they survive the flight they can go home . Being their final mission means all sorts of artistic license is involved to keep the audience on tenterhooks . Despite being a relatively close target in Bremen their fighter escort of P-51 Mustangs have to turn back to base for no other reason than it makes the bomber crews situation more perilous even though in reality a P-51 can indeed provide escort to Bremen and back again . Everything else that can go wrong does indeed go wrong but perhaps the most ridiculous scene is where Captain Dearborn misses the target and decides to lead the bomber wing towards a second run because he fears hitting a school . Would it be too callous to state allied aircrews wouldn't have been too bothered about bombing a school ? After all the children in a school would be working in a German factory contributing to the Nazi war machine in a couple of years anyway . All this makes MEMPHIS BELLE a little bit overdone with western allies being goodies and Germans being faceless enemies
In conclusion MEMPHIS BELLE is a technically competent war film but not much else . It does show the courage involved by bomber crews during the second world war but also feels incredibly old fashioned . So much so that you'd have no problem believing that the screenplay was written while the war was still being waged
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