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  • Movie Review: Above and Beyond

    Posted by Jonathan on March 3rd, 2015 (All posts by )

    This entertaining 90-minute documentary tells the story of a group of idealistic war veterans, mostly but not all Jews, mostly from the USA and other English-speaking countries, who volunteered on the Jewish side during the Israeli war of independence in 1948 and helped to form the nucleus of what became the Israeli Air Force.

    The story is framed largely through recent interviews with survivors from the original group of volunteers, all of whom were quite old when they were interviewed. Some of these guys are (or were, as some of them have since died) real characters and their stories are highly entertaining. The stories also provide fascinating glimpses into the clandestine Israeli crash-effort to evade the US arms embargo and create an effective military force within mere weeks as the British departed Palestine.

    Some of the volunteers smuggled transport aircraft from the United States to Israel via circuitous routes skirting South America, North Africa and Europe. Others, who had World War 2 fighter experience, trained in secret in rickety Czech-built Messerschmitts that were later shipped to Israel, hastily reassembled and rushed into combat without even a test flight as the approaching Egyptian army was only a few miles away.

    The film has a few rough edges — in particular, quite a bit of the archival film footage doesn’t match the narration — but on the whole it is a slick, fast paced, informative and satisfying production. Recommended.

    Postscripts:

    I saw Above and Beyond with David Foster, whose idea it was. Maybe he will share his impressions.

    One thought that came to me after watching this movie was that American and other western veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are now fighting with the Kurds are operating very much in the same spirit as those Anglosphere pilot volunteers in 1948 Israel.

    The movie covers a lot of ground without going into much depth. This isn’t a criticism — there’s only so much you can fit into an hour and a half. I don’t know if the producers published a bibliography, but one way to start to learn more is to google the names of people who were mentioned in the film.

    A trailer for the film is here.

    A longer sample from Above and Beyond, including interviews, is here.

    An article about the film is here.

    The producers’ web page is here.

    Variety review that quibbles about the film’s pro-Israel boosterism.

    NYT review that attempts to minimize the film via insinuations of simplistic morality and heteronormativity.

     

    5 Responses to “Movie Review: Above and Beyond

    1. Lexington Green Says:

      I want to see this.

    2. David Foster Says:

      From the NYT review: “The men unabashedly reminisce about how their missions earned them female admirers.”

      Silly women. Didn’t they know they were supposed to only be attracted to journalists and creative writing professors?

    3. Grurray Says:

      “One thought that came to me after watching this movie was that American and other western veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who are now fighting with the Kurds are operating very much in the same spirit as those Anglosphere pilot volunteers in 1948 Israel.”

      This is a good point.
      What little air strikes we offered the Syrian Kurds turned the tide of battle in Kobane. It cleared out enough space and bought enough time to position Peshmerga artillery. Now they’re pushing east to try to link up with the forces in the NE part of the country and maybe get to the hostages before too many are killed. The troubling question lingering over future operations is whether or not Turkey will intervene to stop the advance. Speed is critical, and drips and drabs from high flying bombers isn’t going to cut it anymore.

      If we can’t or won’t perform close air support, then we should let someone else do it. Privatize all the A-10 squadrons. Sell them to Erik Prince and other military contractors. Or give them to Jordan. They’ll use them.

      If the Pentagon wants their F-35 then let them have it. They can all get fat and rich making something that will never see action. Meanwhile the real tools will be in the hands of the people who need it.

    4. Bill Brandt Says:

      I am glad that it is finally out – I remember seeing the trailer what – 2 years ago? I remember 1 quote to this day – a man saying that the irony was not lost on a Jewish volunteer flying an me109 wearing a recycled Luftwaffe uniform…

      I hope it is playing in my town

    5. Bill Brandt Says:

      Just as I feared – a very limited number of screenings