HURRICANE Film Review (Mission of Honor)
Director: David Blair
Starring: Iwan Rheon, Milo Gibson, Stefanie Martini, Marcin Dorocinski.
Good films entertain; better films expose a hidden truth. Hurricane does both.
Telling the often disregarded story of the enormous contribution made by the Polish to the winning of the Battle of Britain, Hurricane follows Jan Zumbach, played by Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones) and his compatriots as they arrive in England from occupied Europe ready and willing to fight for Polish freedom.
In England they are looked down upon by the British Air Command and must first battle racism and the not inconsiderable language barrier (given the time frame) before winning their seats in the waiting Hurricane fighter planes and taking on the Luftwaffe with a squadron of their own, the now legendary 303 Squadron.
In the air the Poles prove they are without equal, consistently outperforming the allied pilots in both their high number of kills and low number of losses. The word of their prowess spreads and gives rise to both admiration and jealously from the home grown pilots and ground crews. Stephanie Martini (Crooked House, UK TV Series; Prime Suspect, Doctor Thorne, Emerald City) plays one such admirer, Phyllis Lambert. Often war films portray female characters as wallpaper, only there as soundboards, and to admire the heroic men in their smart uniforms. But not Lambert, she exhibits a lust for life - and for the Polish pilots, and is a refreshingly strong and important female character here, adding fuel to the burning jealousies on the ground. If she is central to the conflict on the ground then Zumbach leads the way in the air and the film balances the right amount of aerial action with ground based drama.
The initially reluctant commander of the 303 squadron is Group Captain Johnny Kent, or ‘Kentski’ as he became affectionately known by the Poles under his command. He is played here with aplomb by Milo Gibson (Gangster Land, Hacksaw Ridge) as the middle man between a rock (the Polish pilots) and a hard place (the British Air Command). Indeed all the supporting characters put in solid performances, not least Marcin Dorocinski (Jack Strong, Operation Anthropoid) as the fighter ace Witold Urbanowicz. It is not the first time Dorocinski has played a senior military figure and he is utterly credible here as the quiet and determined Urbanowizc.
If there is a slight weakness in the film it may be the lack of emotional connection we feel for Zumach, this could be due to the story arc being spread over so many characters, though it may also be because these people didn’t allow themselves to become too emotionally bound to one another, knowing death was always just a flight away.
The sting in the tail wind of this tale of heroic Polish Hurricane pilots lies in the closing scenes. In June 1946 Britain held a victory parade in front of King George VI as a thank you gesture to all the nations which had helped in the war effort; French, Czechs’, Chinese, Iranians, etc, etc, all marched down The Mall past a saluting King, but not a single Pole - lest we upset Stalin!
As I intimated at the outset, films do not need to reveal a hidden truth, but they are better when they do.
HURRICANE is available now on Digital & DVD