29 September 2004 | sol1218
Bandit's At Five O'clock
True story of the valiant B-17 bomber "Memphis Belle's" 25th and last bombing run over the German port city of Bremen on May 17, 1943. Having flown 24 bombing missions over Nazi occupied Europe since it's first bombing run on November 7, 1942 over the city of Brest France this if successful, it's 25th bombing run, would be the planes and crews ticket out of WWII.
It had been determined by the US general staff that 25 bombing and combat missions over Europe were the limit that a bomber crew, in order to keep casualties down, can take before they start to fall apart from the stress and cease to be effective. The crew of the "Memphis Belle" are the first to almost reach that goal, 25 successful bombing missions.
The unbelievably ferocious German resistance from it vaunted Luftwaffa and ground anti-aircraft batteries over the skies of Europe cost the USAAF and RAF some 35,000 planes, fighters and bombers, and their crews, over 150,000 airmen, during the bombing of Germany and German controlled Europe from 1942 to 1945. Thats just how savage and bitter the fighting was for air supremacy over that war-torn continent.
Stirring story with fine performances from the "Memphis Belle's" Captain Dennis Dearborn, Matthew Modine, on down. As the legendary bomber weathers wave after wave of deadly German ME 109 Messershmitt fighter planes from the sky and massive and murderous German AK AK anti-aircraft fire from the ground. As the "Memphis Belle" flies over Bremen and drops it's bomb payload and then limps back to England. With it's crew battered and bloody but safe and alive to be the first bomber crew to survive 25 missions over German controlled Europe.
The spectacular air combat photography was the best I've ever seen in a war movie and the cast was on par with the "Memphis Belle" with no one outshining the others but all equal up to their task just like the famed bomber was.
Back on the ground there was another drama played out with officer Col. Harriman, David Strathaim, who sent out the "Memphis Belle" and the other 23 B-17's of his bomber squadron on their mission over Bremen Germany. Col. Harriman didn't go along with Col. Derringer, John Lithgow, the US public relation officer who seemed too eager to reward the "Memphis Belle" crew with honors and glory even before they successfully finished their 25th mission. Not realizing that he was making the bombers crew and Col. Harriman very nervous with his not understanding how dangerous their mission was and even possibly jinxing them.
Tense and terrific the movie has already become a war classic without the false heroics that was so common in war movies made during WWII by Hollywood in order to boost the US morale at home and on the battlefield. The crew of the "Memphis Belle" were just as normal and scared as anyone of us would be if we were in the same situation that they were in. But it was that very fear that brought the best in strength and courage out of them and made them the hero's that they eventually became.