After creating the feature-length documentary Spitfire in 2018, directors David Fairhead (“The Long Journey Home”) and Ant Palmer (“Chateau Monty”) now take on another war story. This time, they embark on the Lancaster bomber aircraft and take us back to the bombing of Dresden and the Blitz. If you’ve never heard of the Lancaster or its events, we don’t entirely blame you for it. The veterans who flew the bomber were almost disowned because of their role in the war. While they caused the death of many civilians, their stories and the Lancaster need to be heard and seen. Can Fairhead and Palmer show us again that they’re masters in keeping important war stories alive?
Narrator Charles Dance takes you back to 1942 when the Lancaster was first used. The RAF wanted to bomb entire German cities instead of only the war factories. From creating the Lancaster to the first flight and from how pilots used it during the war to the development of the Lancaster’s ‘precision bombing’. Thanks to the historical footage and stunning modern aerial footage, you will see it all. However, it’s the emotional interviews with soldiers and survivors that make the most significant impact. The emotional sit-downs with 38 surviving airmen and crewmembers of the Lancaster and their loved ones will make you tear up. Their respect for the aircraft and the uniform and their chilling stories about life during the war are extremely touching and impactful. Apart from the Lancaster crew, you will also get to hear how the surviving aircrew of the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal New Zealand Air Force experienced this terrible war.
The most impressive and stirring moments are when the human losses take the upper hand and when the empty chairs and tables of missing and dead aircrew at breakfast are being shown. Six hundred seventy-two empty chairs at breakfast at the point; it’s certainly a poignant image. You will go silent for a minute or two when you hear that 25,000 lives were lost in the bombing of Dresden (and 55,573 Bomber Command aircrew in total).
While the interviews provide the emotional moments, the historical footage and the modern shot aerial scenes offer the action. Cinematographer John Dibbs (“The Digg”, “Spitfire”) does again what he’s known for: Creating stunning, jaw-dropping and explosive scenes. Whether it’s the moment we see the aeroplane in all its mesmerizing glory or the night shots in which you’re on board the impressive bomber, the cinematography is always on-point. If you combine the stunning footage with a searing soundtrack, then you know you’ll watch an extraordinary documentary about a war that can’t be forgotten.
It’s clear again that the filmmakers want to keep emotional and important war stories alive. Impressive drone-like sound, the wide shots highlighting the strength of the impressive Lancaster bomber, the emotional interviews, and the real-life historical footage make sure that this documentary is one that you need to watch on the biggest screen possible.
“Lancaster” is out in U.K. cinemas now