Above and Beyond full movie review - A brilliant documentary
Above and Beyond (2014) is a documentary film directed by Roberta Grossman. It tells the story of a group of young American WWII veterans who brought planes and their combat skills to Israel in 1948, during the Israeli War of Independence.
I thought this was a wonderful film for what it was--a documentary about ordinary people who risked their lives to fight for a cause in which they believed. In 1948, Israel didn't have an air force. By a combination of boldness, determination, and ingenuity, these young men managed to bring the planes to Israel, and use them in the war.
The film has been criticized for not putting the efforts of these men into a historical context, not talking about the justice--or injustice--of the 1948 war, and not pointing out the long-term consequences of Israel winning the war. All of those criticisms are accurate, but I believe they aren't relevant.
Director Grossman and producer Nancy Spielberg weren't making a documentary series about the 1948 war. They were making a documentary about a particular, specific aspect of the war. These U.S. volunteers survived WWII, and yet they were willing to go back into combat to fight as volunteers for Israel. As far as I could tell, none of them were profoundly philosophical types of men. They did what they thought was right, based on their own Jewishness, their belief in the Israeli cause, and large amounts of testosterone. (As one of them tells the interviewer.)
The survivors are old men now. This documentary had to been made quickly, because, in a few years, it would have been too late to get first-hand interviews with the pilots involved. Now, their stories are recorded forever.
I enjoyed this movie, which was shown in Rochester's Dryden Theatre as the opening night film of the superb Rochester International Jewish Film Festival. My compliments to the RIJFF for choosing this movie, and for inviting producer Nancy Spielberg to the event. Ms. Spielberg didn't so much speak about the movie itself, but rather about the difficulties of getting it produced. Yes, it helped that she was Steven Spielberg's sister, but that alone would not have been sufficient to get this movie completed. It took talent and determination, and that's what she had.
I doubt that this film will go into general distribution, so you'll have to see it at a film festival to view it on a large screen. The good news is that it will work very well on a small screen. I recommend it.