It’s interesting what different generations assume as common knowledge.
Mom had rented a movie and I asked her about the title:
“What’s the “Memphis Belle?”
She looked at me, sideways.
I just threw her the “wuh?” arms and waited for a response. I think she was too tired. Her day job was cleaning houses and she would sometimes fit in two a day. I think that was a double day.
She just said, “I don’t want to give too much away, you’ll just have to see it.”
You know I did.
I found out that it really is an underrated war picture for starters. I’ve seen the movie twice. This time with my mother when I was almost a freshman in high school and again when I was in college.
In my first viewing, I was bored with the first 20 minutes of the picture. There was a lot of talking in big groups in rooms. Then there was a party and I suppose we were supposed to familiarize ourselves with a few of the characters, but at my age, I found it boring. In the second viewing, I had a higher appreciation for those opening scenes.
The real story starts when the Belle takes off. You learn about the amount of men it takes to successfully drop one bomb. Those ships were massive and carried a lot of heavy artillery. I don’t think there was an angle that would be uncovered by a high calibre rifle.
You also learn how hard it is to accurately drop a bomb when given the chance, and that bombs sometimes, don’t “work.”
The gist of the story is that after 25 successful missions, the entire crew is able to go home, regardless if the war wants to cooperate or not. We of course meet the members of the Belle between their 24th and 25th mission and then take the journey with them on the 25th. The movie has quite a crew:
John Lithgow, David Strathairn, Sean Astin, Harry Connick Jr., Billy Zane, Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz, Tate Donovan, and D.B. Sweeney to name a few.
There is a lot of action, as you’d expect in a war picture, but it’s different…
For the most part, it’s claustrophobic. The majority of the movement happens “outside” of the bomber, and we can only see from each crew member’s point of view. The enemy fighter planes are like sharks, circling in the air, in the frame for a split second and then gone, with each member trying to track it down with gunfire as they sweep around from different angles. All the while firing at the bomber as well.
I count three laughs in the picture and a smirk. There is one deep belly laugh that made it completely worth a view itself.
When I think about movies that attempt to make inorganic forms of transportation seem like another character, three come to mind instantly:
- The Millennium Falcon (this goes without saying for someone like me that grew up watching the trilogy a couple times in a row on summer Saturdays)
- The Delorean from Back to the Future, and
- The Memphis Belle…
That’s the impact the belly of this monster made on me. I’m sure that I am going to hear about it from a number of people, “What about the Orca from Jaws?” or “The VW Van on Little Miss Sunshine?”
Now you know my top 5…
I would hope that no one would mention Herby. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Herby movie, but that car is actually “Disney Alive,” okay? Different category entirely.
I am sure that there are others, the point being that the writers and director did a great job bringing that wonderful flying beast to life and I hold it as a valuable and worthy character. I’m afraid if I tell more, I’ll give too much away…and you know I don’t like doing that. Just know that this great cast–including the Belle– makes the journey worth it.