Saturday, June 30, 2012

Movie Review: Fortress

1. Short review: 

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: The airplanes and the CGI.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Roller coaster.

2.2. What I did not like:  The acting and some of the writing. The acting was cheesy but okay. The writing suffered from a lack of research.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Air combat history buffs.

2.4. Is the movie appropriate for children to see?  No. Profanity and lots of it.

2.5. On the basis of viewing this movie, will I pay to see the sequel? If there were a sequel, I would pay the same I paid to see Fortress. I guess that's a left-handed 'yes'.

2.6. Other:  How I rate movies.
-- I want my money back.
-- Worth a rental, not more. <-- Fortress 
-- Worth first-run theater price once.
-- I will pay first-run theater price to see it again.

I saw Fortress on cable. I think it went straight to DVD; that is, it never played in theaters. There is some evidence that it played theaters in England.

The plot in a nutshell:
The B-17 Lucky Lass flew bombing missions over Italy from a North African base. Her aircraft commander was killed on one mission, so Wally (Donnie Jeffcoat), the right-seater, got promoted to the left seat; that is, he became the aircraft commander. The Lucky Lass got a new right-seater, Michael (Bug Hall), and two replacements for the waist gunners who were also killed on the last mission. 

Michael had trouble fitting into the crew, but with time and effort he won their respect and led the crew out of danger (kinda, kinda not) when Wally got killed. Michael got promoted to the left seat; new replacement showed up; rinse and repeat.
For the little I paid for this movie, I enjoyed it. The acting was so-so, but I liked Howard Gibson in the role of Caparelli, the maintenance chief.

I liked the CGI airplanes. They were well done. I don't know if P-40 Warhawks ever flew escort for B-17s, but the P-40s in the movie were brilliantly done. I especially liked the yellow checkerboard tail motif.

In the movie, a P-40 flew a steep climbing turn to shake off and take out a ME 109. I don't know if a P-40 jock ever did that, but I know it can be done and with that exact maneuver. I had two friends who flew F-51s (the Air Force designation for the Army P-51) and took out F-86s with that manuver. I also met an Egyption Air Force major who use the same maneuver in '73 with a MIG 19 to take out an Israeli F-4. Would an American P-40 jock in '43 have the stuff to take out a Luftwaffe 109 pilot with that maneuver? Possible, but not likely.

Fortress showed that good CGI can be done cheaply. I said it is worth a rental, and -- since they released it straight to DVD -- that means they succeeded. Check it out.


There is what must be an administrative hearing before the squadron commander over a theft of officers' club scotch by one of the crew of the Lucky Lass. The prosecuting officer cites the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice). This is an anachronism. The UCMJ did not exist until 1950. During the Second World War, the US Army Air Corps operated under the Articles of War. Something the writers would have discovered had they googled the UCMJ and spent 10 minutes reading the article.

Second addendum:

At the end of the movie, the producers complained that no one who had a flying B-17 let them (the producers) use their (the owners') plane. I saw why. Look, boys, just 'cause y'all wanna make a picture 'bout B-17s don't mean I'm gonna turn cartwheels over the opportunity to show off my plane. I get them opportunities twice a week. And they pay. Y'all want my plane in your picture? Pony up some money. Else, go on back to Hollywood and get your special effects department to whip up somethin'.

Third addendum:

Bug Hall? Your headliner is named Bug? That was cute when he starred in the movie of The Little Rascals, but that was eighteen years ago. How can anyone take you seriously as an actor when you insist on being called Bug? Your name's Brandon. Use it.

Fourth addendum:

I discovered that the checked-tail P40s in the movie truly existed. They were from the 325th Fighter Group. The group flew P40s from April to September 1943 when they swapped their Warhawks for Thunderbolts; half a year later they were flying Mustangs. And, yeah, they escorted bombers, and they often defeated 109s until Messerschmidt developed the 'f' model. 30 July 1943 they baited the Jerries to come up and play and shot down more than half of those who took the bait.

Here is a picture of checked-tail P40:
I have never seen a P40 with such a long canopy before. Unusual modification, that.


2.7. Links: IMDb review

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