Angels One Five (1952)
Angels in the Skies
"Angels One Five" is a movie with a problem but putting your finger on that problem is not that easy. Here we have another WWII movie about the Air Force and with the story commencing in June 1940 is set around the period of the Battle of Britain. But it is unsure whether it is a slice of life at an Air Force base or a more personal story of young, inexperienced pilot T.B. 'Septic' Baird. It lacks focus as well as a strong character and that means despite some very powerful scenes, none more so the ending, it struggles to fully engage the audience.
Young pilot T.B. ‘Septic' Baird (John Gregson - Sea of Sand) doesn't make a very good impression when he arrives at his first posting, all most colliding with another pilot as he lands resulting in him crashing his plane into the bungalow at the end of the runway. Leaving him with a neck injury he finds himself grounded until it is healed and forced to work in the OPs room where his urge to fly makes it all the more difficult. But as time passes and thanks to the camaraderie of the fellow pilots including Group Captain 'Tiger' Small (Jack Hawkins - When Eight Bells Toll) and Flight Lieutenant 'Batchy' Salter (Humphrey Lestocq) he starts to fit in and starts to date the attractive Betty Carfax (Veronica Hurst). Eventually as Germany step up their air attacks on Britain Baird finally gets to return to the skies.
So for me "Angels One Five" is an effective but flawed WWII movie which suffers from a sense of familiarity but also from a lack of focus. I say effective because whilst at times it almost seems to meander along not really heading anywhere it does deliver some very powerful scenes none more so than the ending. You also get to see some effective scenes which capture life on the air base and how death and destruction is dealt with.
But "Angels One Five" does meander because it doesn't really have a strong enough focus. I am sure the intention was for Baird to be our eyes allowing us to see what life is like on the air base especially for someone who knows the books but lacks the day to day experience to be a good pilot yet. And then to connect with Baird so that we feel for him as he is grounded and feel for him when his youthful enthusiasm gets him into hot water. It sort of works but unfortunately Baird is not a strong enough character, oh he is nice and easy to like but unfortunately despite John Gregson's endeavours he doesn't command our attention.
In truth it is the rest of the characters who are more commanding with Jack Hawkins delivering the strong, authoritive performance as Group Captain 'Tiger' Small that we come to expect from him. And Humphrey Lestocq as Flight Lieutenant 'Batchy' Salter brings more energy to his role than Gregson manages. Even the women be it Dulcie Gray as a loyal wife Nadine Clinton who lives in the bungalow or Veronica Hurst who as Betty Carfax plays the cliche but attractive love interest are more interesting.
What this all boils down to is that "Angels One Five" is worth a watch if you are a fan of war movies because it has a collection of powerful scenes. But as a movie it struggles because the character of T.B. ‘Septic' Baird is not strong or interesting enough to command your attention, causing the movie to feel like it is meandering.
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