• Warning: Spoilers
    It's a fact universally acknowledge that some writers work better with some directors than others and vice versa. Working separately director Marcel Carne made one great film (Hotel du Nord), several decent films (Therese Raquin, Julia ou le cle des songes) and several ho-hum entries; also working separately Jacques Prevert fared slightly better writing Le Crime de Monsieur Lange, Les Amants de Verone, Voyage Surprise, Un oiseau rare among other but TOGETHER they made seven of the most distinguished movies in French cinema and if you want me to list them you clearly stepped in here to get out of the rain, the Multiplex is three blocks down. Terry Rattigan worked best with Puffin Asquith and David Lean with Noel Coward yet here we have Lean directing a Rattigan screenplay. You can see Lean's thinking; he didn't want to go through life riding on the coat-tails of Coward, what Rattigan didn't know about constructing a play could fit in an eye-dropper and still leave room for an eight-to-one martini, he'd served in the RAF during the war and had written one of the two finest British war films actually produced during the war, The Way To The Stars - the other was In Which We Serve, written, produced, starring and co-directed by Coward with Lean. On paper this was great, get some stats about supersonic flight, turn them over to Terry and let him flesh them out and humanise them. Mostly it's good but it COULD have been great - think Sinatra and Lawrence Welk; put these two together and you'll get an album that neither has to be ashamed of but team Sinatra with Billy May, Gordon Jenkins, Nelson Riddle and we're talking Hall of Fame. So: We have a lyrical opening sequence in which a plane is 'stooging' about over the channel with the cliffs of Dover prominent; there's a carefree, buoyant, waltz-time feel that sets us up for the revelation that this is wartime. Pilot John Justin goes into a dive and when the plane begins to shudder he finds it difficult to throttle back, an experience he discusses with chum Nigel Patrick back on the aerodrome; Patrick, however, is in love and not interested but the object of his affection, Ann Todd, just happens to be the daughter of a leading aircraft manufacturer, Ralph Richardson, who offers Patrick a job as test pilot after the war. Rattigan gets this over economically so that we can cut to the chase, which, in this case, is the quest for fire i.e. designing and building a plane capable of supersonic flight. In only his second film Denholm Elliott unveils the prototype for his series of weak, callow youths, in the role of Todd's kid brother who funks his first solo and winds up on the menu. Leslie Phillips, sans moustache gets twice as much screen-time as Elliott but is totally forgettable leaving the real acting to the big boys. Nigel Patrick had just come off Rattigan's The Browning Version - with Puffin Asquith at the helm - and played essentially the same role if schoolteachers were piloting jet planes or pilots were flying desks. Nigel Patrick was one of the old school stage actors, shoot cuffs first, ask anyone for tennis later and enhanced virtually every film in which he played. This is a film you want to like and mostly do if only ...