It was produced in 1942 under the auspices of Great Britain's Ministry of Information, with the goal of boosting the country's morale during World War II. It also marked the fourth collaboration for Powell and Pressberger and, notably, their first one in which their producing, directing, and writing credits were billed collectively as The Archers.
One of Our Aircraft Is Missing begins with an empty airplane plunging into power lines and then backtracks to 15 hours before the crash. In almost documentary-like fashion, we're introduced to the plane's crew as it prepares for its next--apparently routine--mission. Personally, I struggled with differentiating the characters during these early scenes since I was unfamiliar with many of the British actors. As a result, the first 26 minutes were a bit of a slog.
However, the film takes off once the crew parachutes from its damaged plane into occupied Dutch territory. To their surprise, the British fliers are discovered by children that lead them to a resistance group willing to smuggle the entire crew out of Nazi-occupied Netherlands. The escape comprises the rest of the 139-minute running time, with suspenseful sequences alternating with pithy conversations among the Brits, the Dutch Resistance, and the Nazis.
|Googie Withers as a spy.|
Geoffrey Tearle is probably the best-remembered of the male leads, having portrayed a villain in Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935). He later appeared in Mandy (1952), a critically-acclaimed film about a young deaf girl, and the Ealing comedy The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953). Of course, the most famous actor in One of Our Aircraft Is Missing has only a small supporting part. That would be Peter Ustinov, who looks so young as to almost be unrecognizable as a priest.
|Powell uses lighting to simulate shells|
exploding in mid-air outside the plane.
One of Our Aircraft Is Missing earned Academy Award nominations for special effects and the screenplay by Powell and Pressberger. Amazingly, it was Michael Powell's only Oscar nomination. Emeric Pressberger won an Oscar for his 49th Parallel screenplay and received another writing nomination for The Red Shoes in 1948.
The man who edited One of Our Aircraft Is Missing didn't receive any recognition for his work. Still, he had a pretty good career in the cinema. His name was David Lean.