film 5 of 7

Air Force

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Jun 29, 2015

An exciting movie lurks beneath the tiresome jingoism, all that straining American stuff that thrills so many of them and nauseates most of the rest of us, one need only look at, say (obviously), Jennings to see that it’s not propaganda persay, but what informs it that can be so galling, here–Hollywood–it’s not poetry or social concern that colours and goes before, but illusionism and the desire to make a buck, these things have obviously led to some of the world’s great movies, but when it comes to moving hearts or uncovering the more abiding motivations, they’re poor ingredients indeed; so we have the same old rag tag assemblage, with bits of cardboard soon to be sacrificed while others are clearly heading for redemption, there’s the obligatory New York type, the hayseed from Minnesota (whom they call “Minnesota”), the malcontent, though here he’s fortunately played by John Garfield, the wholesome old pop figure (Harry Carey, simultaneously mythical and annoying) spouting baseball metaphors, there are immortal compassionate lines like the Tobias character’s “fried Jap going down!”, at the same time this is also a Howard Hawks movie, so there’s the odd electrifying overlapping dialogue exchange like when they’re worried about Arthur Kennedy’s sister, there are also lines like the poor mourning Dad’s, when they give him his dead son’s wings and cap: “that’s not much to show for twenty years, is it?”, there’s the fine hokey scene where the dying pilot hallucinates that they’re taking off again, and the crew plays along, before and beyond that there’s stupendous battle material, a fine long tracking (model?) shot of a landing airplane prefiguring the first dogfight, the Japanese divebombings highlighted by the suddenly very cool Garfield and Carey characters lugging around the big machine guns that are supposed to be mounted, and by the rookie shot down in his parachute, there’s the last minute take off of the barely repaired ship, the final bombardment, and in general an intriguing and affecting suggestion of how things might well have been after Pearl Harbour, when everyone was shocked and shot to blazes and probably having to improvise where to go and what to do and scramble mightily just to keep there heads above the water, or the flames