Wings of '44
Sep 24, 2023
Toby Haycock, Aidan Regnaud, Matthew Harper, Cameron McKenna
After a RAF pilot is shot down over Nazi-occupied France and rescued by a German pilot, an unsteady alliance is forged between the two as they seek refuge from the danger that pursues them. But how long until that danger finally catches up to them?
Written and directed by Morgan O’Callaghan, Wings of ‘44 is an interesting film that excels in a lot of key aspects, but also gets in its own way by not establishing some storytelling fundamentals.
It’s a remarkably clean looking film, several of the clever techniques that O’Callaghan employs here really help sell the authenticity of both the films’ setting and period, making the world they are taking us into believable and initially at least, engaging, even managing to add some simple but effective special effects in there for the films dog-fight scene which work well. Coupled with excellent scoring from Samuel Johnson, Wings of ‘44 is quite a professional looking and sounding piece of filmmaking.
What gets in the way of all that great aesthetic and score unfortunately is that Wings of ‘44 suffers from really needing to tighten things up in terms of writing, both in its story and its dialogue. Despite an intriguing opening, it then takes a fair amount of time to get anywhere significant, audiences limited to watching both leads trek through the woods silently for over five minutes before the film takes any kind of narrative shift and even then, ultimately after twenty-four and a half minutes are up, one is left wondering exactly what story the film has been trying to tell us.
A lot of the runtime in fact seems to just be padding to allow the film to awkwardly stumble towards its climatic finale which, whether deliberately or not (but seems likely so), mirrors very closely the famous opening of Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. And of course, while that in itself is not a problem at all, comparisons are then inevitably going to be drawn which then puts an unfortunate spotlight on the films lacklustre writing even more.
To be fair it is a finale that tries its best and has moments of brilliance but ultimately doesn’t hit the highs it should. While the two leads do shine more in some of the films more intense moments, none of the performances either from our main characters or the supporting cast give the film the gravitas it should have. McKenna as Otto doesn’t get a lot to do really here so is harder to judge, but Haycock’s George, your stereotypical British, stiff-upper-lip RAF man, Regnaud’s French farmer and Harpers particularly questionable SS Commander are not only let down by a shaky script but are underwhelming with what they do have as well. Both factors together mean the film doesn’t get the full tension or attention it deserves in these final moments, despite all that hard work done by the heart-pounding score and crafty camerawork.
Wings of ‘44 manages to get off the ground well enough with some great visuals and sound, but it’s a bumpy flight with a rough landing in terms of story and performances.