|The creators of this film were originally given quite a bit of latitude in choosing what type of movie they would create after the incredible success of winning a best foreign feature Academy Award for the breakthrough Czechoslovakian movie, Koyla. Several companies vied for their attention and the producer and director seemingly had their pick of whatever type of feature they wanted to make. Until they suggested taking the real-life story of the Czechoslovakian World War II pilots who flew with the British air forces in the Czech language.|
Notoriously afraid of subtitles, because they believe the citizens of the cash cow of the United States will not tolerate reading dialogue instead of hearing it, all funding abruptly dried up. And the Academy Award winning team of filmmakers had to do with only about fifteen million dollars in which to make a movie where fully one third of it takes place in the sky. With half of it being spoken in Czech. The movie that they made took a full four years to bring to the screen and though it was shot entirely in the Czech Republic, takes place in three different countries and in over a decade of time.
War films often contain a strong element of romance, but the characters in this film do not always seem so made for one another. The problems between each of these characters results mostly from their situations in life, like husbands and fiancée’s, and sometimes seems too separate from the war effort. These romance and the war are not blended well enough with one another to create a seamless movie. And to be frank, the romantic angle is sometimes not believable enough in and of itself. Though the performances given by both of the men, Ondrej and Krystof, are engrossing, it is not always easy to believe that they would fall for Tara Fitzgerald's character.
This is not a criticism of the actors themselves, but rather of whomever was responsible for casting. They seemingly did not do enough screen tests to determine whether or not the trio of lovers would play well on the screen. The supporting cast, for the most part, was suitable, though not entirely impressive and there seemed to be no other glaring errors in the casting booth. Though there was one performance, though very minor, that did perk up the film somewhat. English actress, Anna Massey made quite an impact, even though she was in but one scene. Teaching the Czech pilots to speak English, Massey is what can only be considered a breath of fresh air with her sharp wit and enthusiasm in the part. It is unfortunate that she is in only one scene.
Joining the cast is something that could be considered another character, even though it is not human. That element is the sky, where much of the film takes place. The cinematography is one of the selling points of this feature and even though the film was not a big budget spectacular, it still manages to display some impressive sights in the sky while what seems like an army of vintage planes run around the sky. The special effects creators for this film had access to only two real life planes and had to shoot the same two planes over and over again in the sky in order to composite the shots into one where it looked as though dozens of planes were in the sky.
And the attention to detail on that score was impressive. With a limited budget, the special effects people on this film were able to create scenes that weren't easily discernable from other shots with no special effects. These filmmakers have proven that one does not need eighty million dollars to create historical realism. And the costumes and props in the film were on the mark as well. Neither the actors nor the set dressings looked artificial, and it is evident that much attention to detail was paid to the look and feel of this film.
But a historical epic, like this one tries to be is not complete without the proper cast. And although the performances, individually, were suitable, it is the interaction between each of those actors that causes the film to stumble. Though it is a worthy and interesting tale, and an aspect of World War II never before explored, the final product doesn't have enough passion in it to effectively bring the tale into audiences' hearts. The lives of these pilots and the people who surround them should have been a gripping story of love and war, but what amounts to something much more staid and uninspiring.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.