303 Squadron Blu-ray Review
There's never a Hurricane movie when you want one and then two come along...
303 Squadron Film Review
Not to be confused with Hurricane, the other 2018 movie about the famous Polish squadron of WWII fighter pilots.Sure, let's have a couple of Churchill movies - The Darkest Hour and Churchill - it's a juicy role that every maturing actor will want to play. Oh and let's also cover it thoroughly in The Crown too, just in case people haven't had enough of Churchill. But two movies about the Czech assassination attempt on Reinhard Heydrich? (Anthropoid and The Man with the Iron Heart). That's pretty specific. Now we have two movies about the Polish 303 Squadron, which were both confusingly titled 303 Squadron, at one stage or another. Is there really anything here that you can't learn from the same year's Hurricane, which is now on Netflix?
The story follows a group of Polish pilots who join the British forces during World War II. Although the British do not trust them, they are running low on pilots and need some cannon fodder whilst training up their own men. Before long, however, the young pilots show what they are truly capable of.
303 Squadron could have been a loosely watchable low budget production
There's no doubt that the tale of a group of mistrusted Polish pilots going Top Gun to prove themselves in battle during World War II has some degree of merit - another one of those lesser-known elements from the War - but there's NO way that it warrants the study of two movies. Clearly unhappy with the relative lack of Polish contribution to Hurricane, 303 Squadron instead goes heavily in the other direction, commendably refocussing more definitively on the Polish heroes, but also suffering under the weight of its predominantly Polish cast, Polish sets, and boutique SFX houses.
A blend of the attitude of both productions would have been the best of both worlds, with the genuine Polish actors playing the pilots in 303 Squadron - speaking both English to their Brit counterparts and Polish amongst themselves - the best choices for those roles, but the Polish actresses cast as British nurses etc. leading to either stilted faux posh Brit accents or really bad dubbing? That's pretty cheap. There's perhaps two or three Brit actors in the cast - the rest is dubbing.
The effects are also frustrating, with the budgetary restrictions clearly requiring everything to be done using CGI and not good quality CGI at that - the kind of quality that you'd likely find in video games on the last generation of consoles. Take off inland, and spend the entire time airborne above an endless slightly fake-looking ocean? Clearly there wasn't even the budget to create a land-based backdrop.
Despite all of this, 303 Squadron could still have been a loosely watchable low budget production, with a couple of good Polish performances (the minimal Brit cast are terrible), including the lead, and a briefly engaging premise. Unfortunately, released in the wake of Hurricane, there really is very little reason not to watch that more polished production instead and, once you have, you'll be left with no reason to watch this.
303 Squadron Blu-ray PictureA decent enough video presentation
British label Dazzler Media bring 303 Squadron to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with a decent enough 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the movie's original aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen. The film is reasonably clean and polished - even micro-budget pieces can look the part these days thanks to digital cameras - afforded strong facial close-ups and background textures, with clarity only really let down during the dog-fights, where the closer you look, the more likely you are to notice that the effects do not stand up. Still, none of that is really the fault of the presentation, which does a commendable job with the material, providing decent colours (the bright blue plane in the flashbacks; the yellow training bi-plane), healthy skin tones (surprisingly so considering it was WWII) and strong enough black levels - although there are scant few dark sequences. It's a solid presentation.
303 Squadron Blu-ray SoundPerfectly serviceable
The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix delivers the mixed English and Polish dialogue (terrible dubbing notwithstanding) with aplomb, affording a wholly generic but perfectly acceptable score which gets some range over the array, but really only enjoying the frequent video-game dogfights, where the rattle of machine guns, the roar of plane engines, and the sweeping, distinctive whine of planes slicing through the skies gets decent coverage and distinction on the track. It's perfectly serviceable.
303 Squadron Blu-ray ExtrasA Making-of Featurette, a Trailer and - rather oddly - a Music Video
303 Squadron Blu-ray VerdictUnfortunately, released in the wake of Hurricane, there really is very little reason not to watch that more polished production instead and, once you have, you'll be left with no reason to watch this
British distributor Dazzler Media bring the Polish production 303 Squadron to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with solid enough video and audio and perhaps a few more extras than fans might otherwise expect from such a low budget limited release production. Certainly, those who enjoyed the movie will find it a strong enough release.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £9.99
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