Empire (UK) - - CINEMA - Kim New­man

★★★ OUT 7 sept (cin­e­mas and rakuten tv) CERT 15 / 115 mins

di­rec­tor David Blair

cast Iwan Rheon, Milo Gib­son, Ste­fani Mar­tini, Marcin Dorocin­ski

Plot In 1940, Pol­ish pi­lot Jan Zum­bach (Rheon) steals a plane and es­capes from Nazi-oc­cu­pied France to Eng­land. There he joins the Royal Air Force, along with sev­eral of his coun­try­men, and is faced with bat­tling not just the Luft­waffe in the air, but the xeno­pho­bia of the Bri­tish pi­lots on the ground.

Hur­ri­cane is an old-fash­ioned war yarn, com­plete with req­ui­site dog­fights and der­ring-do, but de­spite that, it strikes an un­likely melan­choly tone. its fo­cus, 303 squadron, an RAF unit com­posed of Pol­ish ex­iles, are fêted by the Bri­tish es­tab­lish­ment, but re­ally they’re fight­ing for a coun­try they’ve al­ready lost. and, thanks to dirty deal­ing near the end of the war, al­most cer­tainly won’t get back. The film re­flects a hard­bit­ten Pol­ish fa­tal­ism that out-does even the grimmest Bri­tish ac­counts of bat­tles won at enor­mous cost.

iwan Rheon, af­ter a run of Par­tic­u­larly Evil Bas­tard roles on tele­vi­sion, must have been de­lighted to be cast as a goodie for once, and makes a de­cent lead pi­lot. He di­vides his time be­tween keep­ing frac­tious com­rades in line, ro­manc­ing a blonde back-room girl (ste­fanie Mar­tini), flash­ing back to the hor­ri­ble fates of his loved ones in nazi-oc­cu­pied Poland, and look­ing de­ter­mined in his flimsy cock­pit as bul­lets rake his fuse­lage and he tries to get Messer­schmitts in his sights. sub-plots in­volve the dif­fi­cul­ties of train­ing air­men who may be great pi­lots but don’t have English as a first lan­guage, and an ob­sessed air­men who is too in­tent on rack­ing up nazi kills to fly in for­ma­tion and pro­tect his com­rades.

as World War ii re­cedes into his­tory, it be­comes harder to get enough fly­able pe­riod planes to stage the big-scale air bat­tles that re­main the high­points of Bank Hol­i­day af­ter­noon TV favourites such as 633 Squadron, The Dam Busters and The Bat­tle Of Bri­tain. Forced to rely on CGI rather than air show relics, di­rec­tor David Blair — who made the para­nor­mal thriller The Mes­sen­ger and the Ti­mothy spall-juno Tem­ple odd cou­ple crime pic­ture away — stages in­ci­dents that couldn’t be done prac­ti­cally as pi­lots are shot or burned at the con­trols.

Like the fairly sim­i­lar Dark Blue World, which was about the Czech equiv­a­lents of 303 squadron, this is an in­tro­spec­tive, mis­eries-of-war saga rather than an­other in­stance of the tri­umphal­ist nos­tal­gia found in a re­cent run of films about finest hours and dark­est days that con­cen­trate on Bri­tish in­domitabil­ity. Rheon’s cheek mus­cles tighten ev­ery time he loses a com­rade, and his char­ac­ter’s na­tion­al­ist self-pity cracks only when he’s forced to re­alise how much the faux cheery Brits around him are sac­ri­fic­ing with­out re­sort­ing to vodka or re­li­gious angst.

But, as is so of­ten the case, it also speaks to con­tem­po­rary is­sues — a plot thread deals with su­per­cil­ious, ar­ro­gant posh English of­fi­cers who re­sent Poles com­ing over here, tak­ing English jobs and cop­ping off with Bri­tish women (with one clos­ing cap­tion in par­tic­u­lar feel­ing very much like an ed­i­to­rial on UKIP in­su­lar­ity). and one of the pi­lots punches a Daily Mail re­porter. Just in cased you’d missed the point.

Ver­dict a niche film for world war ii buffs, Pol­ish patriots and air dis­play pa­trons. Not ex­actly sub­tle, but few war films are — and it’s hard not to get caught up in fight­ing these old bat­tles.

Mag­nif­i­cent men not in their fly­ing ma­chines.

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