Memphis Belle

By Richard Moore

Daylight bombing of German industry by Allied heavy bombers during the Second World War crippled the Nazi war machine and made it very difficult for Berlin to maintain supplies for its armies.

Ball-bearing plants, machine works, smelters and arms factories all copped a fearful pummelling as hundreds of planes dropped tonnes of high explosive on to them.

The daylight strategy was very successful, but at a huge cost. Hundreds of thousands of airmen lost their lives as the Germans tried, with increasing ferocity, to shoot down the lumbering bombers that often were forced to attack with no fighter escort.

Memphis Belle follows the last mission of a B-17 Flying Fortress crew as it prepares to finish its 25-mission tour and return to America.

The young men of the crew are eager to get out of the war but each realises that anything can happen on the final run and tries not to think of the next target.

They are hoping for a milk run over occupied France, but instead draw the short straw of a highly dangerous strike on Bremen - a German city heavily defended by anti-aircraft guns and beyond the range of Allied fighters.

The first 40 minutes of this engaging war movie focuses on the members of the crew and the pressures each face. It also shows the camaraderie that has built between the diverse personalities during their 24 missions together and really draws you into caring for them.

Matthew Modine is the do-it-by-the-book pilot, Eric Stoltz is the communications operator, Billy Zane a Clark-Gable lookalike bomb aimer, DB Sweeney the navigator and Tate Donovan the resentful co-pilot. Other flight members are excellent, as are David Strathairn as the airbase's commanding officer and John Lithgow as the non-thinking military PR man.

After take-off Memphis Belle really begins to build pace and it's action aplenty as German fighters and flak guns try to bring down as many of the heavily armed bombers as they can.

The action scenes are terrific and the various ways the aircrews could die show why so many perished in wartime. It is tension to the max and the final 20 minutes of the movie will have you sweating in your goggles.

Visually, Memphis Belle was a little hit and miss. The close ups inside the planes were stunning, with peeling paint and scratch marks evidence of razor sharpness, but there were times during the long shots when it seemed to be lacking body and contrast.

However, to not get hold of a copy of this exceptional tale on those grounds would be doing adventure/action lovers a disservice.

This is one of the best war movies made and will have you hanging up your parachute and just staying strapped in for the ride.


Movie: 85%

DVD Extras: 40%


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