• By many standards, David Lean's production of the film he directed in 1952, "The Sound Barrier" is both unusual and I suggest rewarding. The screenplay by Terence Rattigan I found to be riveting throughout. This I judge stems from the fact that its subject is men of vision, and what they do to about their greed for something unnameable, necessary and sometimes deadly. The author in the film is at pains not to paint such men as glory hunters, nor seekers after excitement alone; in one scene, the central character talks about the fliers of the past, and then suggests the men of the future will need vision even more than flying skills to conquer what awaits us--and the answer to what that is is given as "the stars"--called the final frontier in this film in all but name. There are three fliers we meet in the film at a fictitious industrial empire called Ridgefield. The boss's son who hasn't got what a flier needs, Tony, who marries his daughter and reaches his limit because he lacks the necessary genius, and Philip, who has "the right stuff". What I find extraordinary about this very well-directed cinematic tale is that it is always about the people and the joy and danger of flight at the same time, without the focus ever losing sight of the people. The music for this film was supplied by Malcolm Arnold, and it is extraordinary almost everywhere but I find never intrusive. One sequence involves one of the three pilots taking his new wife for a swift flight to Cairo from England; the scene accomplishes many things at once. She learns because of her journey, what some men see in the serenity of the sky, and even its danger; it introduces us to the third pilot and his wife; and we are given a sense of the camaraderie of the men who flew in those days; another such moment occurs when the French ace Geoffrey de Havilland is killed trying to break the sound barrier ahead of all others. Jack Hildyard and several others supplied the cinematography and aerial scenes; Elizabeth Hemminges did a fine subdued job on the costumes; Vincent Korda is credited with the Art Department's superb work while Muir Matheson is acknowledged as music director. Among the smallish cast, the pilots are all beautifully played. bright Nigel Patrick is likable ace Tony, young Denholm Elliot stands out as the boss's son, and John Justin is just right as the third of the trio, Philip. Joseph Tomelty is admirable as Will Sparks, the designer tormented by his own part in causing test pilots to risk their lives; Ann Todd is good as the tormented Susan, wife to Tony and daughter of the boss of Ridgefield. Dinah Sheridan is also lovely as Philip's brave wife; but it is Ralph Richardson's powerful realization of John Ridgefield, former pilot, towering presence and inspiring and dangerous leader of men who along with Justin gives the film its unusual dimension of mind and purpose. One may quarrel with the motivations attributed to Richardson in the last scenes; but he has been so alone in his vision and at such a cost, he may be forgiven for asking at last to be understood. The ending I find to be most satisfying, the film's climax tremendously moving. This is a great film, which has never been appreciated as it should have been. It is B/W film-making at its dramatic best for my money. Its science may not be perfect, but its depiction of human merit and what happens when that quality is lacking in a man is powerful indeed. Not to be missed.