Wednesday, April 10, 2013

One of Our Aircraft is Missing




Written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, One of Our Aircraft is Missing is the story about a British bomber crew who try to evade from the Nazis with the help of the Dutch underground. The film is a story of survival as it involves an entire group of men who have to work together and deal with the Nazis during World War II. Starring Godfrey Tearle, Eric Portman, Hugh Williams, Bernard Miles, Hugh Burden, Emrys Jones, Googie Withers, and Pamela Brown. One of Our Aircraft is Missing is a marvelous suspense-war film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

During this tense period of World War II where Nazi Germany has occupied many countries to maintain their rule, there is always an underground force to resist the powers of the Nazis while helping the Allies in defeating the Germans. The film is about a British bomber crew whose plane has been shot down following a raid in Stuttgart, Germany where the six men land in Nazi-occupied Netherlands. Yet, one of them is separated from the rest of the gang leaving five of them to find shelter in a local village where a schoolteacher named Else Meertens (Pamela Brown) helps them as they’re lead to seek help from the Dutch underground that includes a woman named Jo de Vries (Googie Withers) who organizes their escape. Yet, all six men realize what is at stake as they do whatever to help not just themselves but the Dutch who are dealing with the control of the Nazis.

While it is a film that does support the Allies cause against Nazi Germany and to support the Dutch resistance, it is a film about men trying to survive in war and helping out the Dutch resistance who are helping them get back to Britain. These six men not only count each other for help and support but also are aware that they’re in danger and could lose all hope if they’re captured. While they do struggle with a few language, cultural, and religious barriers with the Dutch, they do accept it as a way to survive while getting a chance to realize the kind of the help they needed. Even as they help expose a Dutch Nazi sympathizer (Robert Helpmann) who is confronted by both these men and his own countrymen as he realizes he’s fucked. Still, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger slowly take their time with the script to explore the men in their situation as well as what the Dutch have to go through under Nazi occupation.

The film’s direction by Powell and Pressburger is quite simple as it doesn’t play to any kind of conventional tactics as well as the lack of a music score. Instead, they aim for a realism from the use of tight close-ups and claustrophobic framing to capture the atmosphere of what it would be like in a bomber plane. Things do get looser once they’re in the Netherlands though it’s shot in Britain due to the fact that the Netherlands was occupied by the Nazis during the film’s production. Yet, there is an air of suspense that occurs throughout the film as well as bits of humor such as the discovery of the lost sixth member of the crew. The film’s third act which is about the escape that involves these intricate moments of how to escape through the canals and to the sea are very intense as Powell and Pressburger create unique camera angles and framing to play out the sense of danger that is happening. Overall, Powell and Pressburger create a fascinating and intense film about war and the urge to survive.

Cinematographer Ronald Neame does excellent work with the film‘s black-and-white photography to create some amazing lighting schemes in the canal scenes to maintain that air of suspense as well as some light-hearted moments in some of the daytime exterior scenes. Editor David Lean does terrific work with the editing to play out the suspense in a very slow yet meticulous manner to see how things are planned out and what the men do to kill time as well as rhythmic cuts in some of its more eerie moments. Art director David Rawnsley does wonderful work with the set pieces from the look of the Dutch homes and their underground canals. Sound supervisor A.W. Watkins does nice work with the sound to capture the atmosphere of war with air sirens and gunfire.

The film’s cast is brilliant as it features some notable small roles from Robert Helpmann as Dutch Nazi-sympathizer who gets himself in trouble, Hay Petrie as a local Dutch official, and in his film debut, Peter Ustinov as a priest who helps out the British. Pamela Brown and Googie Withers are excellent in their respective roles as Else Meertens and Jo de Vries who help out the British men in their chance to escape. In the roles of the bomber crew, there’s Bernard Miles as front gunner Geoff Hickman and Godrey Terle as the rear gunner Sir George Corbett as they are excellent as is Emrys Jones as the wireless operator Bob Ashley who is a football fanatic. Hugh Williams is wonderful as the observer/navigator Frank Shelley who is also an actor as he observes everything around him. Hugh Burden and Eric Portman are superb in their respective roles as the pilots in John Glyn Haggard and Tom Earnshaw who lead the escape while making sure everything goes well.

One of Our Aircraft is Missing is a remarkable film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. While it’s kind of a propaganda-war film for the British and their Allies, it is still a captivating piece for how a group of men struggle to evade the Nazi and help out the Dutch resistance in the fight against Nazi Germany. It’s also a film that doesn’t play to conventions as far as war and suspense films go by allowing the audience to be engrossed in the situation and the people in the story. In the end, One of Our Aircraft is Missing is a superb film from Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

Powell/Pressburger Films: The Spy is Black - (The Lion Has Wings) - Contraband - (An Airman’s Letter to His Mother) - 49th Parallel - The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp - (The Volunteer) - A Canterbury Tale - I Know Where I’m Going - A Matter of Life and Death - Black Narcissus - The Red Shoes - (The Small Black Room) - (Gone to Earth) - The Tales of Hoffmann - (Oh… Rosalinda!!!) - (The Battle of the River Plate) - Ill Met by Moonlight - Peeping Tom - (They’re a Weird Mob) - (Age of Consent) - (The Boy Who Turned Yellow)

© thevoid99 2013

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