This is a propaganda film that manages in 103 minutes to convey tremendous amounts of fast-paced, coherent, stirring information about comradeship, the joys of insubordination, the lethally-lonely duplicity of command, vengence, despair and sacrifice. Those are themes one would cynically expect of a 1938 American film designed to support Allied spiritual preparation for the Second World War by celebrating the exploits of gallant, flying heroes of The War To End All Wars…but somehow this film also manages to weave a powerful, cogent, fundamental, explicit and universally-appropriate antiwar statement from all of the cliches its primary themes employ. Go figure. No, really. Don’t miss this one.
Errol Flynn, Basil Rathbone, David Niven, Donald Crisp, Melville Cooper and Barry Fitzgerald lead an ensemble cast of players in this remake (of a 1930 adaptation of a Saunders short story, The Flight Commander) that successfully spins its themes with remarkable efficiency in the first several acts, and culminates in utterly wordless action in an illustrative masterpiece of unequivocal, purely-visual “narrative” exposition.