Screenwriter Bobby Hammel and director Ashley L. Gibson’s military drama, Called To Duty, is intended to be a tribute to the brave men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces. It’s also a searing look at the sexism that exists among soldiers and how it affects team dynamics. Is this too much for an independent production to handle, or do the filmmakers succeed in celebrating the people putting their lives in peril every day?
Country (Susannah Jane), Riddles (Brandi Mosko), Edge (Cabrina Collesides), Wiki (Erica Seeling), Riot (Whitney Star), and Bear (Marisa Pangaro) are members of the aerial stunt spectacular the Wing Girls. Combat pilots often look down on the pilots of this division of the U.S. Air Force, as the Wing Girls are more of a public relations event. This frustrates them, though not as much as the condescending way several male pilots talk down to them.
However, with tensions between the United States and North Kiyung growing, Country and the women under her command are given the opportunity to prove themselves. They are called into combat training to help prepare them for an all-important mission. But, the higher-ups never explain any of this to the pilots, and the fallout from them discovering the truth jeopardizes the mission.
“…Country and the women under her command are given the opportunity to prove themselves.”
Called To Duty hits on several cliches found in military-centric tales, such as being chewed out by commanding officers, disobeying direct orders, and egos (literally) butting heads. But Hammel has crafted some strong, compelling characters, so viewers are still invested even in these moments. Just as importantly, the dialogue is satisfactory. Edge gives a speech about how she’s happy that the Wing Girls stood up for themselves via a dogfight that is fantastic and reasonable. It helps that the actors are pretty good and deliver their lines believably.
Unfortunately, for a film about piloting fighter jets, the flying sequences are ho-hum. Understandably, there’s a focus on the people in the cockpits. This helps keep costs down, but it makes the geography of where the jets are difficult to track. The editing in these scenes is also wild, with some shots going by so fast that it’s hard to tell what exactly just happened.
And yet most of the combat moments feel exciting. This is in large part thanks to the score and rock songs used throughout. The musical compositions are spirited and fit any scene’s tone(s) perfectly. The soundtrack is even better. Every song choice is a rock anthem that drives the danger and thrills the Wing Girls are in/get from soaring among the clouds. Gibson’s direction matches, making for a kinetic thrill ride that is perfect for viewing on a rainy afternoon.
Called To Duty has technical issues, which stem from its low budget, and it exists in a world alongside the perfection of Top Gun: Maverick. But thanks to a capable bunch of performers, good direction, and one of the best soundtracks of the year, the film is a solid watch. So, while it is not entirely flawless, the film is 100% enjoyable.
"…one of the best soundtracks of the year..."