Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
Alternate title: The Sound Barrier
United Kingdom, 1952. London Film Productions, British Lion Film Corporation. Story and Screenplay by Terence Rattigan. Cinematography by Jack Hildyard. Produced by David Lean. Music by Malcolm Arnold. Production Design by Joseph Bato, John Hawkesworth. Costume Design by Elizabeth Hennings. Film Editing by Geoffrey Foot.
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, Nigel Patrick marries the beautiful Ann Todd and goes home to meet her father (Ralph Richardson), 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 John Justin adds a great deal of dashing intelligence as her husband’s friend and colleague.
Academy Award: Best Sound Recording
Nomination: Best Story and Screenplay