Memphis Belle Blu-Ray Review
I know nothing about the real Memphis Belle so I can’t quite critique it in its historical accuracy, although it’s safe to assume plenty of things have been toned down, but the good news is I can rate it on a pure entertainment and theatrical scale. On those two merits alone, MEMPHIS BELLE is definitely worth your time. It’s not the lump in your throat inducing war movie we’ve seen as of late, but it’s a rare and insightful look at air warfare during WWII.
MEMPHIS BELLE is a by the books war movies that instills a sense of pride and nationalism that was probably overlooked upon its release. It was released back in 1990 to a bunch of non-contenders, but what most likely hurt its marketability is it came a year after Oliver Stone’s BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY. An anti-war hangover loomed over the nation; I think…I was only two years old at the time it was released. So what do I know? But we can all agree BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY is definitely floating around in a lot more memory banks than MEMPHIS BELLE.
The film follows the American crew of the Memphis Belle, a massive B-17 that’s stationed in England during WWII. They will be participating in a mission over Germany. The only problem is, they will be doing a much criticized daytime air raid and the city they’ll be bombing has a fairly high casualty rate. I’m not sure if this is because of the city or the fact their flying in broad daylight. Regardless, it’s no surprise this doesn’t sit well with our rag tag group of youngsters, but the establishing of our checklist of characters is poorly done.
When the plane, the Memphis Belle, remains grounded, so does the movie. MEMPHIS BELLE is stuck in a rut for the first act with the movie using a dance is used as a primer for the character’s introductions. Once again, I can’t deny this didn’t happen, but I feel like the most human moment of interaction comes when one of the crews baits a young girl by talking about how this might be his last night of life and all he needs is a woman at his side…the artful way of saying he wants sex. Other than that, I don’t feel like I’m being fed enough interesting information to develop a relationship with the characters that will eventually be in peril.
Of course once our heroes take to the air, the real fun begins. The beginning of MEMPHIS BELLE would almost imply we’re about to watch a watered down war movie, but the moments of joking to calm one’s nerves and watching others die mid-air really injects humility into the movie. Even though I could surmise that the plane would not be taken down and would complete its mission, that doesn’t mean they found a couple of creative ways to create some suspense and leaving the fate of each one of their lives up in the air. It’s visually refreshing to watch a movie that incorporated models instead of CGI for battles. With so much computer saturation, I felt like these scenes had a more sensible approach.
MEMPHIS BELLE features a well hand-picked cast featuring Billy Zane, Eric Stoltz, Sean Astin and John Lithgow. Lithgow was probably excited to stretch his acting legs, but actually comes up off as the weakest. There’s plenty to enjoy during MEMPHIS BELLE, but it’s no SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. In terms of the military branch it represents, the air force, it’s definitely one of the most enjoyable and should be considered a standard for future movies.
MEMPHIS BELLE BLU RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p HD Widescreen 1:85:1) The digital transfer is almost flawless throughout the movie, but some moments still have that analog look. If it weren’t for those moments, this would be a perfect presentation.
Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HDMA) A perfect balance of music and dialogue, which is crazy considering this is a historical war movie. You’d think the guns and explosions would be too loud, but it’s mixed well with the tactical yelling in the cockpit.
Documentary: The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress (40:01): After a quick search online, this appears to be the documentary that MEMPHIS BELLE fictionalized a took a lot of it’s vision from. While it’s technically interesting, the visual presentation is masterful. It’s amazing meticulously detailed it is with showing every little moment of the story. Everything from the the plans to reactionary shots, breathtaking views of in-flight battle and a thorough tour, inside and out, of the plane itself. Definitely a worthy companion piece to the movie.