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There was no better director than Howard Hawks at depicting group action. Because of his sense of character and pacing, Air Force transcends its propaganda purpose. It's well crafted all the way around, from the acting to the writing to the aerial fighting to James Wong Howe's painstakingly striking cinematography. A B-17 takes off from San Francisco in December of 1941 headed for Hawaii only to witness the Pearl Harbor attack from above, so it lands and takes off to thwart an oncoming attack. Reassigned to Manila, the crew (which includes the always cynical John Garfield, Gig Young, Arthur Kennedy, George Tobias, and Harry Carey) is thrust into the thick of battle. Incidentally, Hawks enlisted William Faulkner to rewrite a death scene that resulted in a sublime sense of honor. He also added some epigrammatic polish to some dialogue, such as Tobias's dismissal of California: "The sun shines and nothing ever happens, and before you know it you're 60 years old." --Bill Desowitz
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