Memphis Belle (1990)

Rated PG
Spoiler Free

In primary school, as an even smaller person than I am now, I had spent ages arranging a competitive game for a charity day. The game involved toilet rolls and balloons and as an eight year old I was rather impressed with my ingenuity and excited for the event, which I probably was also convinced I’d win (having literally engineered the entire thing). For feck knows why I was then taken sick, or probably injured given I seem to recall Obinna* landing on my arm in a game of football.

My reward for being at home with my Mother was the most reliable of babysitters: the TV. I don’t know what daytime TV was like in the early nineties, probably even shitter than it is today, but my pitiful state and no doubt incessant whining prompted my being rented a VHS. I was probably a bit young for Reservoir Dogs but after that I watched Memphis Belle. I loved it and have watched it countless times over the following years.

Memphis Belle is the true story of a WW2 B-17 Bomber crew head out on their 25th and final sortie into German skies to rain merry hell on the bastard Bosch. Michael Caton-Jones (Basic Instinct 2, but don’t hold that against him) directs a cast of admirable depth. Mathew Modine, Eric Stoltz, Tate Donovan, Sean Astin, Billy Zane, John Lithgow and David Strathairn is a pretty boss roster by anyone’s standards. Unlike the previous 24 flights, this mission goes tits up, and the skies above Europe prove more deadly than ever.

As you can imagine, ten men in a floating tin can filled with explosives and Nazis trying to shoot them, provides for some good drama and action. This all still holds up, it’s claustrophobic and intense and at one point my notes read, “this is how fragging came about”. Although I can’t see that working so well in the air, tossing hand grenades in a plane. Memphis Belle proves that you don’t need CGI to make a good war film, and reminded me of my youth in a non traumatic flashback way.

Bedsit it?

Memphis Belle has undoubtedly dated, but in a quaint way. There’s tons of stock footage, some of it seemingly from the war, but it’s all used cleverly. However, the film does not boast a cinematic wow factor, which is me being overly critical of a film which maintains a power and enjoyment factor after so many viewings and years. 7/10

*RIP geezer.


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