Air Force (Hawks, 1943)

Howard Hawks’ Air Force works beautifully as a piece of Hollywood wartime propaganda released in the middle of World War II. This is important because of how singularly focused the film feels, spending all of it’s time with a bomber squadron crew made up of a diverse set of personalities reflecting a sameness of American patriotism, even though there are characters who expectedly change throughout the film – the once selfish become gung ho flag wavers too. Air Force is an obvious propaganda film, painting the invisible enemy as cowardly and deceptive. But Hawks does give his group of characters plenty of clout as real, three-dimensional soldiers thrust into complex and life threatening situations. While death is seen as a passing fact of life, the characterizations are so strong we still feel the loss. Air Force sports some spectacular special effects (for which is was nominated for an Academy Award) and James Wong Howe’s camera moves swiftly through the air along with these valiant servicemen. While obviously biased, Hawks’ film must be viewed within the context of it’s release. Air Force is impressive and effective as a war film, but more interestingly it’s a slice of anger aimed between the eyes of America’s once enemy Japan, an overt simplification of war time history and the consequences of battle. It’s purpose however rings loudly with thoughtfully drawn out character parallels and feisty banter, vintage Howard Hawks.

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