Breaking The Sound Barrier (1952)

DAVID LEAN

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB

Alternate title:  The Sound Barrier

, 1952, Story and Screenplay by Cinematography by Produced by Music by Production Design by , Costume Design by Film Editing by .  

The British film industry reaches a high point in its post-war recovery with this superb dramatic adventure, a fictionalized account of the development of supersonic flight. Following his service in World War II, marries the beautiful and goes home to meet her father (), a self-made aeronautics tycoon who immediately hires him as test pilot. Richardson’s goal is to put the new technology of jet engines into common use in place of propeller airplanes, and to get to the point that his planes can fly faster than the speed of sound (or at least prove that it’s possible).  His fixation on this goal frequently leaves out the human consideration, and it’s up to Todd to suffer the emotional devastation of the tragedies that this voyage of discovery leaves in its wake. Every aspect of this film is top-drawer, from the crisp and gorgeous photography, the outstanding visual effects, the superb aerial footage, beautiful production design, sterling direction by David Lean and perfectly marvelous cast. The rock-solid screenplay by Terence Rattigan pays apt respect to the science and technology aspect of the story: the audience is in on everything the men are exploring in the skies, but having this playwright famous for the best in British melodrama on this project also means that the women taking care of things back on Earth are kept in focus. Todd gives an outstanding performance in the lead, even with that hopelessly posh accent still managing to be warm and relatable, and adds a great deal of dashing intelligence as her husband’s friend and colleague.

Academy Award:  Best Sound Recording
Nomination:  Best Story and Screenplay

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