Written from the English point of view, this film seems to have it's tonguein it's cheek at times, but it's not at all funny. There are severalflashes of humor in the early scenes, at the expense of the British upperclass, but those quickly give way to the special horrors of the first warfought in the air.<br><br>Patriotic young pilots straight out of college lost their lives inliterallya few days time, due to their inexperience and the stress of this new kindof battle. Malcolm McDowell has the unwelcome task of leading the 76thSquadron and also visiting colleges to drum up recruits, all the whileknowing he's inviting them to an almost certain death. He keeps these newrecruits at arms length to soften the blow to his mental health when theyinvariably get shot down. When he shows up at his own alma mater, anidealistic young man, played by Peter Firth, signs up for McDowell'ssquadron. On his arrival at the airfield, Firth sees the evidence of theturnover in pilots but fails to see the connection to his own longevity; afamily photo and personal effects are whisked out of the room he's beenassigned, right in front of his eyes. He is introduced to Simon Ward, astony-faced pilot who by the end of the movie is finally driven insane bythe awful, daily anticipation of his own death in battle.<br><br>The young pilots experience the respect that their station in the Air Corpselicits from the locals and from women, but at the same time they see howthey are more likely to be killed than the average filthy foot soldier.Firth is taken with a local cabaret girl, who invites him to her room onenight. The next night, when he expects her to be glad to see him, sheignores him and pays attention to an older, richer officer. The very nextday the pilots are given the task of destroying German spotter balloons,which always have heavy gun and air protection, and the older pilots knowthis is almost a death warrant. Six planes go out, with McDowell and Firthin two of them, but you'll have to watch the film to find out how many comeback.<br><br>A very good, but depressing, film, McDowell is subdued in his performanceand seems to come out of his cocoon only at the end. This is necessary, Ithink, for his character to survive in the surroundings of constanttragedy.Firth is naive in the extreme, and this probably a correct portrayal of agreen recruit in WWI, where there was no frame of reference for howdangerous those early airplanes were. The film shows us just how littlethecommanders valued the lives of their men by sending them out unprepared andinexperienced, and that they know after one group of fliers is decimated,there is always a fresh batch of innocent boys to take their place. Irecommend the film highly, since it has a firm anti-warmessage.