Co-writers/co-directors Josh Berman, Trent McGee, and screenwriter Natalia Pleshivtseva present untold stories from World War II with their documentary Angels Of The Sky. Specifically, the filmmakers chronicle the 8th Air Force pilots who were shot down and became prisoners of war. If that sounds like a spoiler, it really isn’t, as the film is far more about their experiences after being grounded than their time in dogfights.
Robert Barney, George Emerson, Harry Selling, Walter Drake, and Ed Stapleton all felt moved to join the military at the start of the United States of America’s involvement in the Second Great War. Each veteran discusses why they chose the Air Force and what it’s like to be flying. Then the peril begins. The dangers of abandoning the plane are examined, as is how and why such a last-ditch move would be needed.
Then Angels Of The Sky gets to the heart of the matter. Barney, Emerson, Selling, Drake, and Stapleton become P.O.Ws, which is potentially scarier than facing off against an enemy pilot. These brave men vividly recall the march to their camps, the conditions they were kept in, and the mental toll of not knowing who was winning the war.
“…the 8th Air Force pilots who were shot down and became prisoners of war.”
Berman and McGee present this all in a relatively straightforward manner. This is a talking heads documentary, if there ever was one. The use of archival footage and photos works to help visualize what’s being said, though visiting these historical sites, tough though it might be to see, could have added some extra dimension to the visuals.
With that being said, Angels Of The Sky works on a fundamental level. This is primarily because of the subjects’ harrowing stories. It is heartbreaking to hear the things they went through and/or witnessed. That all these years later, Barney, Emerson, Selling, Drake, and Stapleton can recall all this with such specificity is remarkable. Each of them speaks poignantly about their trials and tribulations, which are bound to break several hearts.
Angels Of The Sky is a basic documentary that tells an incredible true story. The subjects are fascinating, and the narration by Sean Burgos adds gravitas. Overall, this film is for viewers who love WWII or military history.
"…tells an incredible true story."