Review

  • British aviation enthusiasts seek to break the sound barrier by dangerously pushing their jets beyond their limits in this solidly crafted drama starring Ralph Richardson. The film has copped a lot of flak over the years for its historical inaccuracies (the Americans were actually the first to break the sound barrier with very different techniques), however, 'The Sound Barrier' works well as a character drama as long as one takes all the pseudoscience on hand with a pinch of salt. The movie is rather slow to warm up, focusing on a formulaic courtship between Richardson's daughter and an up and coming pilot, however, as soon as Richardson enters the scene, it becomes an experience that rarely lets up. It is quite a sight to see Richardson's boyish enthusiasm for the task at hand, waxing poetic about a "whole new world ... in the grasp of man", demonstrating how aerial flight works during dinner and proclaiming that "it's just got to be done". His character also comes with shades of ambiguity; is he at all guilt-ridden over the deaths of those trying to complete the quest or does he see the deaths as acceptable in the name of human progress? Richardson does very well adding such shades to his character and while none of the supporting players come close to equaling him, he is enough alone to carry the film, or at least when on-screen. The film is also blessed by some great spinning shots within mysterious clouds and as one might expect from a film with such a title, the Oscar winning sound mixing here is highly effective.