'The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress' - Movie Review

When movies show up at the library, I look up reviews. The 2018 documentary "The Cold Blue" showed up, and not only did it have very good reviews, so did the movie that inspired it: this one. "The Memphis Belle" was a documentary shot on (yes, actually ON) Mitchell B-17 Flying Fortresses flying out of Britain on bombing runs over Germany. It was shot by legendary director William Wyler and his film crew. I watched the 2018 restored version.

The voice-over is in classic 1940s style: a trustworthy voice telling you about the circumstances, the tension, and occasionally the evil of the Germans. Despite the voiceover, the end result is remarkably tense. This is partly because the delivery, although a bit bombastic, is actually relatively dry and isn't overstating the facts: they're clearly in terrifying circumstances. I was fascinated to see some of the practicalities of the insides of the plane: the two gunners in the middle of the body actually have to manoeuvre around each other to swing their gun in a full arc, which seems less than ideal in fighting circumstances.

Other things that were interesting to me were an aerial view of huge chunks of Britain having been turned into an airfield, a launching point for these massive attacks on German-controlled Europe. The description of the day's battle plan greatly increased my respect for the military (I shouldn't have been so surprised), with something like 1000 planes flying out in six groups each to different areas in Germany to break up the response (and that's just one day's mission). And who knew they flew such strict formation even under attack (apparently with reason).

Highly recommended for history buffs. May prove a bit dry for others.