The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress

Astonishing work, not just for the real 16mm Technicolor footage shot inside the planes, but for the kind sorrow that Wyler brings to it that one wouldn't expect from "propaganda." The B-17 might spur to mind Hawks's Air Force but the tone is closer to The Dawn Patrol, a sense that these men are all in some way ready for death more than the battle, and that so much of the plan depends on the use of essentially decoys to be destroyed so the main targets can be hit. So much of Wyler's focus is on this sort of morbid undertone and the sacrifice. This makes everything that happens in the air have an intense feeling of death, from simply seeing the frightening amounts of flak in the sky, described by the voiceover in details that make it even more terrifying. The combat footage then has a visceral effect, shaky camera and (recreated) booming sounds, and shot of terror as we watch helplessly for men to abandon their tumbling B-17. All for that final wait as each plane comes slowly back to base in full numbers, and with their crew together. Final ending with the Queen gives the added dose of patriotism for good measure that's otherwise been somewhat unpronounced throughout.