Perhaps partly inspired by the success of Dunkirk, this based-on-a-true-story, second-world-war drama contains the required guns blazing and handsome chaps being heroic, stoic and panic-stricken.It’s a much more conventional work than Christopher Nolan’s epic that verged at times on abstraction. Take out the swearing and the one (not explicit) sex scene and you would believe this was filmed at any time in the last 30 or 40 years. Though the moderate antipathy towards posh people and officers wouldn’t have been so pronounced in a British film made immediately after the war.
The prejudiced English come off badly in this story about the 303, an RAF unit manned mostly by Polish pilots. The airmen came to help fight off the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain and the squadron ended up with one of the best kill rates. It’s mostly an ensemble piece, but much of the story revolves around part-Swiss flying ace Jan Zumbach, played by Iwan Rheon, best known for his memorable turn as the sadistic Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones.
Rheon rattles off dialogue in English and Polish, and the latter sounds reasonably persuasive to untrained ears. He makes for an engaging, pugnacious lead, although given how many fine Polish actors there are, it’s a bit of a mystery why the producers chose to cast a Welshman in this role. He has good chemistry with love interest Stefanie Martini as a feisty female soldier.
The lack of budget, relative to Dunkirk at least, is glaring in the aerial dogfights, and the score is too maudlin and on the nose, but director David Blair navigates the whole thing through the storm with watchable competence.