WHAT TO SEE: Aces in the Poles
Mission of Honor
Iwan Rheon, Milo Gibson, Marcin Dorocinski
Run time: 107 min • Not Rated
During World War II, following the rapid collapse of Poland, tens of thousands of Polish servicemen went to France to continue fighting for Allied forces. After France capitulated in 1940, the Poles battled on in England. There, more than 8,000 Polish air personnel would serve with the Royal Air Force, many in special Polish squadrons.
Although experienced pilots, the Poles had to master new planes with unfamiliar features, like retractable landing gear and a throttle that opened by being pushed forward rather than back. To the British, the Polish pilots seemed undisciplined and raw, and their quick defeat to invading Nazis didn’t speak well for their fighting prowess. Mission of Honor is a fictionalized story of how the pilots of the Polish 303 Squadron won their hosts’ respect by proving to be excellent fighters and serving with distinction. Historically, 145 Polish aviators across several RAF squadrons were credited with shooting down more than 200 enemy planes in the pivotal Battle of Britain.
Iwan Rheon and Marcin Dorocinski star as Polish fighter aces Jan Zumbach and Witold Urbanowicz, while Milo Gibson plays the Canadian squadron commander, Capt. John A. Kent.
The tenacity of the Polish flyers is evident, and occasional flashbacks depicting Nazi atrocities committed on their fellow countrymen – often family members and loved ones – lends ample motive for their determination. Sadly, the film’s epilogue explains how post-war England repatriated many Poles to their native land, then under Soviet control, where some would suffer imprisonment and death.
Critics of Mission of Honor take issue with some special effects, certain anachronisms in dialogue, and the obligatory romantic subplot. Some familiar with the specifics of World War II aircraft point out inaccuracies in the planes’ markings or dogfight tactics. The film also has instances of wartime violence and wartime profanity. For teen and adult audiences, Mission of Honor provides an interesting take on these courageous men who persevered for freedom and against oppression, risking all because they had already lost all.
GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.