Sunday, 28 April 2013

One Of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942)

British Men Sit In Fight Jets While Bickering Back And Forth Battling Nazis

The problem for propaganda films is this: for some people it makes them feel proud and patriotic, and for some other people it just feels awkward. One of Our Aircraft is Missing is not only awkward for the audiences, but it is even more so for the filmmakers. One of Our Aircraft is Missing is so blind to anything but the magnificence of Great Britain's flag. Although I rather like Great Britain and I obviously do not like Nazis, One of Our Aircraft is Missing still managed to come to a giant mess, even though I was naturally routing for who they wanted me to.

One of Our Aircraft is Missing is blind. I think that is the best way of putting it. It is blind to anything that may increase it cinematically. It is playing safe with the ignorance of the audiences of the time and even the ignorances of audiences today. They simply show what people would want to see, no more, no less. For that reason alone, One of Our Aircraft is Missing was a rather large success upon it’s release. I suppose it could be considered a way of escaping from the then current horror of World War II, but does that mean it should still be watched today? Absolutely not.

One of Our Aircraft is Missing was pulled together so fast it is almost incredible. It was also whipped together very cheaply, and trust me, it shows. The film looks as though it was shot on the most inexpensive camera Powell and Pressburger could possibly find. The cuts are rugged and the old 35mm film has been clearly damaged of the course of the last sixty years. For these reason, One of Our Aircraft is Missing is painful to the eyes. In wouldn’t be until 1943 with The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, that the Archers would realize their calling for shooting a fabulously coloured and positioned Technicolor film. So here, in 1942, only one year away from The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp they make a completely stylistically opposite film. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp was lavish and beautiful where as One of Our Aircraft is Missing is rough and hideous.

I have never read the actually screenplay for One of Our Aircraft is Missing, but I have heard it is sloppy and a great deal of the film was improvised on the spot. The story is also jumpy, it feels structureless and sloppy. We go from one event to the other with no smoothness in between. For this reason, One of Our Aircraft is Missing is even more aggravating to watch!

Eric Portman starred in many other films by The Archers, and he has never been worse than he was in this failure of a performance. It seems that he did not care about delivering a realistic performance. What he focused on, was making sure his British accent was cool and made all his lines sound witty. Well, at least he succeeded with that one.

Googie Withers is not half bad as a Dutch agent, despite having a very mediocre accent. Withers is a fairly good actress, and it struck me here that she truly understands how The Archers wanted her character to appear as in the film and Withers understood how to get her character to come in such a way. Her character and Joyce Redman’s character are two strict agents of the Dutch resistance and although they are not  characters that demand profound interpretation and intensive method acting to master, they are certainly interesting characters who are both well played. I’ll take the moment to promote two films I love; if you want to see Googie Withers in three great performances check out Dead of Night, The Lady Vanishes and Night and The City, all of which she is superb in.

One of Our Aircraft is Missing seems to be Powell and Pressburger trying to have a fun time. However, The Archers clearly have a strange definition of entertainment because One of Our Aircraft is Missing is my definition of boring. It is slow-moving and it meanders over that which we could care less about. The less twenty or so minutes of the film are actually fairly well done. Perhaps Powell and Pressburger decided to put all of their effort into the very end of the film, and not the rest of it.

I can tell what The Archers were aiming for (pun intended) with One of Our Aircraft is Missing, but as pretentious as this may make me come across as, I felt the film was more for an audience of less dedicated film watchers. The film is not terrible, but it certainly isn’t good either!

One Of Our Aircraft Is Missing,
Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressubrger
Starring: Eric Portman, Googie Withers and Joyce Redman
★★½ /★★★★★

1. A Matter of Life and Death
2. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
3. 49th Parallel
4. The Small Back Room
5. The Red Shoes
6. The Tales of Hoffman
7. The Spy in Black
8. A Canterbury Tale
9. The Battle of the River Plate
10. I Know Where I'm Going
11. One Of Our Aircraft Is Missing

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