A group of pilots are forced to ditch their plane after a bombing raid over Germany and end up parachuting in to Nazi occupied Holland where they try to evade capture. That doesn't sound that special and in fact you can almost picture the movie before you watch as we follow these 6 men bravely trying to get back to Britain. Except the movie I am describing is "One of Our Aircraft Is Missing" a Powell & Pressburger wartime movie and different to what you may expect because the focus is not on the men but the people of Holland who bravely help them to safety. It makes it fascinating and real as we witness their courage, sacrifices, ingenuity and tenacity to fight the Germans by helping the British.
As "One of Our Aircraft Is Missing" starts we witness an empty bomber fly into a power line causing a huge explosions, it is simple yet stunning but is really just the lead in to the movie. In fact the first 15 minutes or so is pure lead in as we are taken back 15 hours to the day before and the men of the bomber getting their orders for the bombing raid. But whilst this is just lead up to the main storyline it is brilliantly shot with exceptional in flight footage of a plane flying through flack as well as the still atmosphere on the plane. These opening scenes really create a serious atmosphere and it is worth noting that whilst this is a Powell & Pressburger movie there is also David Lean and Ronald Neame working behind the camera, two more titans of film.
But anyway this build up leads to the men having to bail out as whilst they bombed their target they lost an engine and limped back over Holland till the plane gave up completely. This is where the real storyline starts because whilst the men are central to the story the focus is on the Dutch, especially the Dutch women who help the men escape. And that starts with us meeting Els Meertens a Dutch school teacher who speaks English but has the manner of a German interrogator as she questions the men making sure they are who they say they are rather than a Nazi trick. It is a fun but powerful scene because it gets home the danger that the Dutch faced when trying to help the British but also how well organized they were, in fact more organized than the service men.
Without going into any detail this leads to the journey as the servicemen make their way to the North Sea with scenes which continue to deliver a mix of humour and real drama. A simple scene where a crowd watching a Football match receive orders again establishes the resistance of the Dutch as they ingeniously play the Nazi's at their own game. And all of this leads to the men meeting Jo de Vries, another Dutch woman and a cool character when it comes to getting one over on the Germans. But again whilst it is almost comical the way she helps the men escape we still get to understand the courage and sacrifices she makes and also her strength in doing so.
All this means is that "One of Our Aircraft Is Missing" is a very different War movie which rightly praises the work of the Dutch during the war to assist in helping stranded men escape. It makes you realise what the Dutch did whilst also still managing to entertain be it through a few light hearted moments or some nice action. But something Els Makes it different and this one of only a few movies I know which has no soundtrack and it makes it unsettling to start with but then you forget there is none.
What this all boils down to is that "One of Our Aircraft Is Missing" is a very special war movie which rather than just being about heroic pilots is about the heroic Dutch who bravely helped the British escape. It makes you see another side to the war which is often ignored in war time movies and with the styling of Powell & Pressburger it is a movie you won't forget in a hurry.