It’s a statistic that bears repeating. Nearly half of all Bomber Command aircrew died during World War Two. Most were in their late teens or early 20s. Their’s was a war fought in darkness over occupied Europe, with the night sky occasionally illuminated by searchlights, flak, or tracer rounds. Men from all over the Commonwealth, and indeed, the world, took to the night skies to deal death each night, while other young men, in different uniforms, did their best to kill them in return. The indie film Lancaster Skies manages to capture a slice of their world, and it is a film you should add to your watch list.
I will preface this by saying that I was able to watch in courtesy of my all region DVD player. It will be out in the United States later this year, but if you have a DVD player like mine, you can get it and enjoy it now. Follow the official website here for updates as to the specific US release date, though I’ll be sure to announce it here as well. Now on to the review…
I will not detail the plot, as that information is available on the film website other than to say it concerns a pilot who transfers from Fighter Command to Bomber Command and takes over a crew whose pilot was killed on their last operation. He has to win their respect, but doesn’t have much time to do it, as they are due for another mission soon.
The first thing to really strike me about this film was the cinematography. The lighting and camera angles are incredible. It gives the film an intimate feel, as though you are taking part in the events rather than merely watching them on screen. This helps you build a connection with the characters. It had an almost claustrophobic quality to it (similar to Das Boot), which is a good thing in a film like this as it recreates the tight quarters of a Lancaster, but also the lives of the men in Bomber Command as they were eternally squeezed between life and death.
The dialogue is lean and sparse, which suits the subject. Most American and British aircrew I’ve met in my life tended to be men of few words. There is an appropriate amount of banter as well, but not so much as to be over the top. (Think the novel and TV series Piece of Cake). Right away I appreciated the fact that the cast, at least visually, looked the right age. Wars are fought by young men, but the actors that play them usually aren’t. In this movie, the actors and actresses look the part. It was great to see the inclusion of some WAAF characters.
The aerial combat scenes both at the beginning and the ending of the film were both well filmed and well acted. It’s difficult to show nocturnal activities in a film sometimes because if it is too dark, the audience can’t see what they need to see, but if it is too light, then you lose the night setting. Thankfully, Lancaster Skies was able to find a happy medium. As a boxing fan, I appreciated the inclusion of a crewman who boxed and the scene of him engaging in the puglistic arts.
The remarkable thing about this film is that it was filmed on a shoestring budget. The fact that the filmmakers were able to produce such a quality movie is really a testament to their skills, as well as those of the actors. It just goes to show you that a small budget doesn’t always mean a small film. So my final verdict is to give Lancaster Skies two thumbs up. Stay tuned to the film website and to my blog for announcements about the upcoming US release, or spend $40 like I did and get an all region DVD player and get the movie now.
If read my novel So Others May Live and enjoyed the scenes which take place in a Lancaster over Berlin, then you will absolutely love this film. So get you hands on a copy as soon as you can. Though it would be staggeringly expensive, I think a film focusing on the Berlin firefighters in my novel would be pretty cool. Then again, movies about firefighters can either be good (Ladder 49) or absolute garbage (Backdraft, Backdraft 2). And, as a reminder, there is a great sale on World War 2 fiction taking place from June 5 through June 9 to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day landings. Numerous books listed for a mere 99 cents. You can see that list here.
Until next time, Dear Readers, here’s to hoping you don’t prang your kite and catch a rocket from your CO. He’s a right bastard.
Lee Hutch is a retired firefighter/arson investigator. He is a history professor at a small college in Southeast Texas. His first novel, So Others May Live, was published in 2019 and tells the story of a Lancaster crew over Berlin and a group of firefighters on the ground.