A well-intentioned but undistinguished take on Polish airmen in Britain during World War II.




Briefly but tellingly the recent Brexit documentary Postcards from the 48% referred to the contribution made during the Second World War by Polish pilots stationed in Britain. What they did deserves to be remembered and, indeed, the 303 Polish Fighter Squadron was to prove notable for its achievements. It was history worthy of commemoration and it is hardly surprising that the son of the late Arkady Fiedler long hoped that his father’s book based on interviews with airmen thus involved would be turned into a film (after all a comparable work praising Czech pilots over here was made in the 2001 film Dark Blue World). A newspaper report from 2016 can be found on the internet referring to plans to shoot such a film to be directed by Lukasz Polkowski and it seems that some work on a screenplay for it was done by the noted Polish filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski. What exactly happened to that project I do not know, but Hurricane dealing with the same subject matter, written by Robert Ryan and Alastair Galbraith and directed by David Blair is the film that has actually reached us.


Featuring a number of Polish actors who when appropriate speak their own language rendered for us in subtitles, Hurricane is not a production entirely divorced from Poland, but the writers are not Polish and the credits make no reference to Fiedler’s book as a source. To have done so would probably have been superfluous because what we have here is a screenplay that is routine and rudimentary. Handling this subject was always going to be challenging given the need to give enough weight to fictional characters to create something worthy of the history that is being celebrated. Back in 1945 Anthony Asquith’s classic tribute to the wartime work of the RAF, The Way to the Stars, found the perfect balance but it had a screenplay by a writer of immense distinction, Terence Rattigan.


In Hurricane, the characterisations are undernourished; indeed the film fields its leading figures in a way that sometimes makes it difficult to remember which is which. There is a general sense of superficiality too: it applies to the portrayal of rivalry over a good time girl in the ops room and equally to scenes involving critical reactions to the sensitivity of the one pilot whose religious feelings encourage him to think of Germans shot down as human beings. David Blair as director allows the music score to feature persistently, crudely inserts memory shots at intervals showing deaths witnessed earlier by the pilots and, whenever in doubt, quickly turns to yet another aerial sequence featuring some dramatic dogfight. Undemanding audiences may find all this enough and the film can claim to show initial English disdain for these foreigners transformed into admiration. But I couldn’t help thinking throughout that a film from Fiedler’s book might well have yielded a film with a depth and individuality quite lacking here.




Cast: Iwan Rheon, Milo Gibson, Stefanie Martini, Marcin Dorocinski, Krystof Hádek, Nicholas Farrell, Teresa Mahoney, Robert Portal, Sam Hoare, Phil McKee, Emily Wyatt, Drew Cain, Jan Goodman.


Dir David Blair, Pro Krystian Kozlowski and Matthew Whyte, Screenplay Robert Ryan and Alastair Galbraith, Ph Piotr Sliskowski, Pro Des Michael Fleischer, Ed Sean Barton, Music Laura Rossi, Costumes Richard Cooke.


Prospect 3/Head Gear Films/Stray Dog Films-Kaleidoscope Entertainment.
115 mins. UK/Poland. 2018. Rel: 7 September 2018. Cert. 15