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
I was glad to finally see a World War II movie that wasn't situated on the ground, but in the air. Don't get me wrong, I'm still an absolute fan of the 'infantry and tank' war movies, but from time to time I want to see something new, something different. And let's be honest, there just doesn't seem to be any interest from Hollywood for the air fights over Europe or Asia in WWII. I only know of two other movies of this kind and that is "Battle of Britain", made in 1969 (WWII) and "The Blue Max" from 1966 (WWI).
The "Memphis Belle" is a B-17 bomber that is about to fly its 25th and final mission. After this mission, the crew of ten men will have fulfilled its tour of duty and will finally be able to go home. Since they would be the first crew to finish all 25 missions in the 8th Airforce, plans are made to celebrate their coming home party, even before they have taken off. But before there can be any party, they first have to fly their final mission to one of the worst targets imaginable. They will have to fly over German territory, all the way to the heavily defended Bremen, where they will have to bomb an airplane factory in the middle of a residential area. All the men know that chances are little that they will ever return alive and that one little mistake will cost the lives of many innocent civilians...
In the beginning I didn't like this movie all that much and there were a couple of reasons for that. One is the in my opinion badly casted John Lithgow. His role as Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Derringer just didn't fit in properly. It felt like he didn't take his role very serious, although I'm convinced that it also had something to do with the script. Perhaps no-one had payed enough attention to the development of his role... And there were a couple more problems to be found in this movie. Take for instance the crew. The voice-over in the beginning says it too: There just has to be a virgin, a wise guy, a cool guy,... in every flight crew. That was so stereotypical that it bothered me. The last thing that didn't really do it for me - although it wasn't as bad as my two other points of criticism - was the entire day before their mission. I just had the feeling that they should have kept it shorter. I'm not saying that they had to skip that part completely, but I was waiting for the part in which all the flying and the action would take place.
Still, I don't want you to think that this isn't a good movie. Once they are in that bomber, the stereotypes seemed to melt away like snow for the sun. They started to act as a team, instead of being a bunch of individuals that didn't seem to fit in. From that moment on I was truly captivated by this movie. Also the fact that they show so many flight and fight sequences, including some real-time footage, is wonderful. I know, I just love to watch those old Messerschmits, B-17's,... flying and that already was enough for me to like this movie. But than again, who else would watch such a movie than the people who are interested in that part of the war? Not that many I suppose.
As a conclusion I would like to say that I liked this movie for many reasons, but the best one must have been the acting once they were in that confined space of the airplane. All they had to work with was the interaction between them, their enemies and their plane and they sure did a wonderful job from that moment on. So despite the fact that I didn't like the first part of the movie all that much, I must say that the second part made me decide to give it a very good final rating. I give this movie a well deserved 7.5/10.
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