Cliff Robertson and George Chakiris in 633 Squadron (1964)

Sky Side Story

It would be easy to say that "633 Squadron" is a flawed movie because quite frankly it suffers from issues with special effects and some over the top acting being just part of the problem. But then like so many war movies "633 Squadron" is all about how it makes you feel, how impressed you are at the daredevil flying, the emotional turmoil of Wing Cmdr, the sense of pride and respect it instils. Roy Grant as he goes on a deadly mission. And it is that mix of emotion and adventure, action and drama which makes it not so much a classic war movie but one which continues to entertain over 40 years after it was made.

After a string of successful missions Wing Cmdr. Roy Grant (Cliff Robertson - Picnic) and the men of the 633 Squadron are looking forward to some time off. But they are immediately put into training for a top secret mission. Thanks to intel from Norwegian officer Lt. Erik Bergman (George Chakiris - West Side Story) the men are to prepare to fly up a Norwegian fjord where they are to bomb a rock over hang so that it will fall onto a bomb proof fuel factory.

Johnny Briggs as Lt Jones in 633 Squadron (1964)

So "633 Squadron" is an adaptation of Frederick E. Smith's novel and in adaptation a few things have changed but the heart of the story stays the same. Now anyone who knows there war movies will probably know what I am going to say because "633 Squadron" is a little similar to "The Dam Busters". Here we have Cmdr. Grant and his squadron picked for a dangerous mission to fly low through a fjord where they are to destroy a fuel factory, but rather than target the factory they are to target the rock over hang so that it crushes the factory and a few German's with it. It seems a little far fetched that they would basically have a mission to cause a rock fall but it certainly delivers plenty of entertainment as the 633 Squadron fly low, through ground to air attacks and perilously close to the rock face.

But whilst the dangerous bombing mission is the vehicle for the movie and also what everything understandably culminates to there are other things going on. Now on one hand you have the cliche in Cmdr. Grant because he has chosen to not get attached to anyone whilst in service but lo and behold falls for the beautiful Hilde. But you also get the friendship which forms between Grant and Lt. Erik Bergman a Norwegian officer who is part of the intelligence for the mission. Their bond leads to one of the movies emotional highpoints although the emotional side is underplayed in a typical stiff way.

The thing is that whilst "633 Squadron" is seriously entertaining it has plenty of issues most notably George Chakiris not looking very Norwegian. Not that is a criticism of Chakiris's acting as he does a good job he just looks wrong. Then there is the special effects and sadly some of the model work does look just like that, models and some of the super imposing just looks shaky. And it is a shame as scenes where we have planes in flames are impressive and add to the tension only for something fake looking to spoil it.

Now whilst George Chakiris does a nice job despite being wrongly cast as a Norwegian "633 Squadron" really belongs to Cliff Robertson as Wing Cmdr. Roy Grant. There is a quiet confidence to Robertson's performance reminiscent of a Glenn Ford performance, delivering the hero aspect but also allowing the underlying feelings to show through his look rather than over acting. Unfortunately some of the other actors do go over the top in trying to deliver a diverse selection of characters although in what is a small role Johnny Briggs, yes he of Coronation Street fame, makes an impact.

What this all boils down to is that "633 Squadron" is really just an average war movie, similar to "The Dam Busters" and suffering from numerous flaws. But despite special effects and casting issues it is entertaining and when it comes to the dramatic bombing run as planes fly low it is exciting.