303 Squadron, Squadron 303 (2018)
Directed by: Denis Delic
Written by: Arkady Fiedler, Chris Burdza, Jacek Samojlowicz, Tomasz Kepski
Starring: Anna Prus, Antoni Królikowski, Cara Theobold, John Kay Steel, Kirk Barker, Maciej Cymorek, Maciej Zakoscielny, Marcin Kwasny, Nik Goldman, Piotr Adamczyk
303 SQUADRON (2018)
Directed by Denis Delic
English Language and German & Polish Language with Subtitles
Based on Dywizjon 303 (Squadron 303), the account of by Arkady Fiedler, 303 SQUADRON tells the story of the 303 Squadron, a group of Polish fighter pilots who fought alongside the British Royal Air Force in the Battle of Britain in 1940. After Hitler’s army and his Russian Soviet allies invaded Poland and pretty much elsewhere in Europe, surviving Polish army members made their way to the UK where unoccupied Britain looked to strengthen their fight against Germany. The Polish squadron’s success and exploits found them fame and were reportedly the highest scoring allied fighter squadron, taking down over 100 enemy planes and losing only 8 pilots during their campaign.
When I was at high school, we studied World War II during history class but what we were taught was merely a summary of the events that transpired. Granted, there’s so many stories to tell about the WWII that it couldn’t all be covered, which is why I was fascinated with 303 SQUADRON when I sat down to watch it. Whilst I knew forces overseas were doing their bit to defend their lands, I didn’t know that Polish pilots were on British soil, giving their lives and providing their skills to defend Britain from suffering the same fate as their homeland and fighting for the freedom of the world. This film wonderfully tells their story, how their unorthadox, airborne manoeuvres and relaxed flying formation gained them the upper hand during aerial combat and how sceptical RAF commanders gradually accepted their Polish comrades.
For a film about fighter pilots, you’d expect a lot of flying and there’s plenty here to enjoy. The CGI is faultless and captures the exhilaration and stress of what it must have been like to have or be on the tail of an enemy plane, having to make snap decisions which could prove fatal. The variety of shots captured really add depth to the film and I couldn’t help but be caught up in these moments. Back on land, we see how the squadron ended up at RAF Northolt after the defeat of their homeland. There’s plenty of fun moments too as the Polish pilots socialise in the bar, placing bets with each other as to who may be successful in getting to dance with a lady. Like most films, there’s a romance that blossoms between the combat, and in this film it’s between accomplished Polish pilot Jan ‘Donald’ Zumbach and a British actress-turned-RAF receptionist/assistant. However, throughout the film we see that he still holds a candle for his Polish love, engineer Jagoda Kochan, who he fears may be dead after her arrest in Poland.
As thrilling as the action scenes are, 303 SQUADRON is rather disjointed. The scenes jump from one period or moment to another and it’s hard to work out what exactly is going on. It feels like it should’ve been a longer movie but has been hacked to bits, but if it’s format is actually how it’s meant to be then the only way I can describe it is like portraying the entries of a log or diary – separate events that don’t flow. This disjointed approach is where the film is held back and restrains the movie from being as good as it should be. All the ingredients are present for an effective presentation of the Polish squadron’s story but this broken structure actually does a lot of harm to the movie as an act of storytelling.
Whilst the structure of the story may be off, there’s still plenty to enjoy from this movie which has been so respectfully presented. The fact it educates whilst captivating audiences with the airborne combat deserves to be recognised.