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Review: ‘Lancaster’ is a frank and emotional story of the wartime bomber

As Britain stood alone in World War Two, Nazi Germany seemed invincible. Europe had been conquered by Hitler’s army, and only a short stretch of water kept his forces from invading England.  In the early 1940s, the only chance Britain had to take the war to the heart of Germany was by aerial bombing. The British achieved that by building the Avro Lancaster, a heavy bomber capable of reaching Berlin and other enemy cities.

In the documentary Lancaster, we see the development of the bomber and meet some of the surviving aircrew who flew these planes on incredibly dangerous missions over enemy territory. 

Using a mix of archival war footage, compelling interviews, and present-day footage of the last airworthy Lancaster bomber still flying, a remarkable period of history comes alive.

And what a history. It was perhaps the most dire period in British history and one that very nearly ended in defeat.  

What comes through loud and clear in this documentary is the debt the Allies owed to these men, most of whom were in their late teens and early twenties. As the survivors remind us, it was a time of living life fully because they knew the next mission they undertook could be their last. 

For those who are still alive, we hear about the moral dilemma they faced, and for some, still, grapple with. They knew they were going out to kill people, thousands of people. Yet, with a certain stoicism, they knew they had a job to do. Thousands of men didn’t return, and this film acts as a sort of memorial to them. 

The story told is not one of glory, nor is it judgemental. It is a frank and simple telling of a time of great tragedy. Cities on both sides of the conflict were bombed mercilessly, but lest anyone choose to be judgmental of the British destruction of cities such as Dresden, one German survivor of the war had a simple answer.  What else could they do?

Lancaster is a well-constructed, honest, and emotional story about a plane that helped save Britain, and ultimately the ‘free’ world. But of course, at its heart is the story of the hard-working and brave men who flew the plane. Without their strength and sacrifice in the face of danger, the bomber would just have been a heap of metal.


110 minutes

Directed by:

In New Zealand cinemas 1st September 2022


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