Hudson's Flying High
With so much at stake it is important for General Kirby (Kevin McCarthy) that he has the right man in charge of a first response wing command which is why he calls in career soldier Colonel Jim Caldwell (Rock Hudson). With his no nonsense attitude he sets about whipping the men beneath him in to shape to be the quickest and efficient men they can be. But Jim's commitment to the job and his hard nosed attitude starts to alienate the men who serve under him whilst driving a wedge between him and his wife Victoria (Mary Peach) who becomes close to Jim's old pal Col. Hollis Farr (Rod Taylor).
I didn't look but I can pretty much guess that "A Gathering of Eagles" was made with the complete support on the US Air Force because it has that tone about it with its look at life on an Airbase where the men are primed for quick response if there is a nuclear attack. What do I mean by tone? Well parts of the movie explores life on base where running a tight team is essential, we also see the excitement of being up in the sky but alongside that danger as well for example when during an in-flight refuelling a plane catches fire. Basically there is a very clear informative side to "A Gathering of Eagles" which to be honest often feels a little forced in conjunction with the drama side of the movie.
As to that drama; well we see how driven Caldwell becomes from checking a man's liquor bills at the club to expecting the engineers to check every nut and bolt even though they are already working 70 hour weeks. As such we see how he upsets pretty much every man under him with his no compromise attitude and driving his wife in to the arms of his friend as she needs a shoulder to cry on. It is in truth quite a typical drama which had been done before in the likes of "Twelve O'Clock High" and "Flying Leathernecks" with just a tiny bit of variation to prevent this from feeling just like a rehash.
Part of the problem with "A Gathering of Eagles" is that whilst Rock Hudson does his best to deliver the drama he just doesn't come across as a commanding military presence. The thing is that when the story shifts around to show moments of him trying to be kind Hudson is great but those softer moments are few and far between. Doing better is Rod Taylor who gets to turn on the charm as Farr although ironically I would have had Taylor and Hudson play each other's roles.
What this all boils down to is that "A Gathering of Eagles" is a solid but for me unremarkable war drama which sadly doesn't manage to blend the two sides of being realistic and dramatic in a cohesive fashion.