Reach for the Sky (1956) starring Kenneth More, Muriel Pavlow, Lyndon Brook, Lee Patterson, Alexander Knox, Dorothy Alison, Michael Warre directed by Lewis Gilbert Movie Review

Reach for the Sky (1956)   4/54/54/54/54/5

Kenneth More as Douglas Bader in Reach for the Sky (1956)

Bravo for Bader Biopic

Growing up I knew the name Douglas Bader because sadly he died in 1982 and remember it being big news, the death of the brave man who flew and fought during World War II. But to my shame that was about as far as my knowledge went, that this pilot who walked on tin legs was a war hero. It made watching "Reach for the Sky", the biopic about Bader fascinating because whilst it openly admits to a bit of poetic licence in the opening credits it paints an interesting picture of this man who to be honest was and is an inspiration. And to be honest if all you know of Douglas Bader is that he was a war hero with no legs I suggest watching "Reach for the Sky" because it will stoke your interest.

So as already mentioned in the opening credits of "Reach for the Sky" it states "For dramatic purposes it has been necessary in this film to transpose in time certain events in Douglas Bader's life and also to re-shape some of the characters involved in this story" and you quickly realise this as we are introduced to Bader. We watch him falling off a motorbike as he is heading for RAF Cranwell, damaging his bowler hat in the process which he still wears when the cadets line up and jokes about it. It basically means that we have a picture of Bader being a congenial chap, one who is game for a laugh and as we also learn a terror for breaking the rules which isn't 100% true. But I am not complaining because the congenial way Kenneth More portrays Douglas Bader works and whilst we may not have Bader's habit for swearing we do understand his determination.

Kenneth More and Muriel Pavlow in Reach for the Sky (1956)

Now for those like me who knew little of Bader it is a surprise when you see how he ended up losing his legs because it was whilst doing aerobatics, reportedly from being dared to. It certainly is a surprising fact as whilst Bader was part of the No. 23 Squadron aerobatics team it was through being dared to fly low that he ended up crashing and almost dying. But this is where the movie really starts because we have the work of surgeon Mr. Joyce to save his life by amputating both legs and then the sheer determination of Bader to not only walk again on tin legs without a stick but more importantly to fly. We watch as he relentlessly pushes himself to breaking to be able to walk and whilst we have this pleasant version of Bader we also get to see the sheer determination to do what he said he would do.

And that is what we get a lot more of because "Reach for the Sky" takes us through Bader's life, his determination to fly again, meeting and marrying Thelma as well as struggling to return to a boring working life when initially he is denied a flying position in the RAF. Of course we know Bader became a war hero, being allowed to take to the sky again when WWII started and became a hero as not only his courage but tactical brain made him a leader. In fact you really get a sense that whilst Bader may have been cavalier he never was dangerous with others, protective and supportive of the men who ended up serving under him. Now for those who don't know Bader's story I am going to stop there other than to say that we witness him being a complete thorn in the side of the German's through out the war.

And that to be honest is it, we have this inspirational biopic about a man who not only thought in the war he thought to be in the war and be treated on an equal level despite losing both legs. Yes it is a sanitized biopic with certain elements of his character being changed; basically Kenneth More plays him as dashing young man who never gave up. But at the same time Bader's spirit and determination still comes across.

What this all boils down to is that "Reach for the Sky" is a thoroughly entertaining and fascinating movie about a man who truly is someone who inspires. It may be sanitized, events may have changed but you certainly appreciate Bader's never give up attitude and if all you know of Bader was that he was a pilot and war hero who had lost both legs then you will learn a lot more.