Having completed 87 bombing missions over Europe the pressure is starting to show on Wing-commander Tim Mason (Dirk Bogarde) and his superiors are concerned he is pushing himself too hard. But Tim has a goal of making it to 90 missions and promises that he will go where ever he is told as long as they let him reach his target. But Tim has other concerns from dealing with various issues at base to Eve Canyon (Dinah Sheridan), a widow who he takes a liking to. But in doing so he breaks his own rule about not having wives or girlfriends around his squadron as it distracts them and just to make matters worse fellow pilot Major Mac Baker (William Sylvester) also takes a fancy to her.
There were a lot of war movies made towards the end of the 40s and early 50s and to be honest when you've watched a few you become familiar with various storylines. This brings me to "Appointment in London" which is basically the stresses and strains of a squadron of bombers and in particular Wing-commander Tim Mason who is unique because he is closing in on completing 90 missions. Now there is something familiar to this storyline because it delivers elements seen in other similar movies, the strain of Tim having done so many missions, the feeling of guilt when others don't return as well as romantic issues to complicate matters before we get to the 90th mission. But "Appointment in London" rather than just being routine is saturated in atmosphere be it the first half which focuses on the strain on Tim being in command or the intensity of the second half which focuses on that 90th mission. It is this stunning atmosphere which lifts "Appointment in London" to being something more than just another war movie.
So "Appointment in London" is very much a movie of two halves and whilst Mason's goal of completing 90 missions is important, the first half is more focussed on the stress and life of a Wing-commander. As such we have various routine elements such as the camaraderie between men, the jovial parties at the pub but also the hardship when planes and friends don't return. And we also have that romantic element as Tim meets war widow Eve and falls for her leading to conflict with his own self imposed rules about having loved ones. But whilst this first half delivers scenes you can see in numerous other war movies, especially those which focus on the air force during World War II, it does have a more realistic atmosphere. You can sense the guilt and heavy hearted-ness when a pilot doesn't return and that really hits home.
Of course with "Appointment in London" also being about Tim completing 90 missions over enemy territory we do get everything building up to a big bombing raid. Now it is no spoiler if I say that initially Tim is blocked by his superiors but goes anyway and it does lead to some brilliant scenes. The atmosphere in the plane as we travel with Tim, Mac and their crew is stunning and when the bombing starts it has you on the edge of your seat. Even the element of will they or won't they return is well handled so that you are kept wondering.
It is because director Philip Leacock does such a great job of creating atmosphere that "Appointment in London" is an above average war movie. But it is also the performances which also lift from minor roles for Bryan Forbes, Bill Kerr and Anne Leon to the main stars Dirk Bogarde and Dinah Sheridan. Now I am not the biggest fan of Dirk Bogarde but his performances as Tim Mason is one of his best, real, thoughtful and subtly emotional he makes the character come to life. And Dinah Sheridan does a lovely job of playing Eve, playing her as a typical romantic love interest but one which also has depth and an element of realism with her already being a war widow.
What this all boils down to is that "Appointment in London" is a surprisingly good war movie which treads the familiar ground of other movies which follow a squadron of bombers. And it is because there is so much atmosphere that it ends up an above average war movie which really sticks out from the crowd.