Watch The Dawn Patrol
- 1 hr 43 min
The Dawn Patrol is a 1938 war drama film directed by Edmund Goulding and starring Errol Flynn, David Niven, and Basil Rathbone. The film takes place during World War I and is set in the skies over France where British and German pilots duel in dogfights. Errol Flynn plays the role of Captain Courtney, the seasoned leader of a squadron of British pilots stationed in France. David Niven plays the role of Scott, a new recruit to the squadron who quickly learns the harsh realities of aerial combat. Rathbone plays the unlikable Major Brand, the commanding officer of the airfield. The film follows the men's daily routine under miserable conditions as they fly their obsolete open-cockpit biplane fighter planes in raids against the Germans, taking off from the airfield every dawn. The early morning hours are the most dangerous time to fly, as the pilots are most vulnerable to attacks as they climb through the dense fog to catch the first rays of sunlight. These flights are known as "the dawn patrol," hence the title. The constant fighting has taken a toll on the squadron, as they see friends and colleagues killed or badly injured on a daily basis. While the pilots are brave and loyal to each other, they have a deep sense of despair and disillusionment with the war, and the constant loss of life wears them down. As the story progresses, tensions rise between Captain Courtney and Major Brand. Courtney, who has seen too much tragedy, believes that they should not be sending new pilots, like Scott, to their deaths. Brand, on the other hand, sees the new recruits as expendable and believes that the only way to win the war is to keep fighting and take as many enemy planes down as possible. Adding to the drama is the arrival of a new commanding officer, Colonel Fanshawe, who places more importance on protecting his men than on the number of enemy planes shot down. This new approach causes a conflict of interest between the Colonel and Major Brand. The film's action scenes are impressively staged, with the dogfights looking realistic given the limited capabilities of special effects at the time. The aerial battle sequences are tightly choreographed, fast-paced, and thrilling. However, it is the performances of Flynn, Niven, and Rathbone that steal the show. Flynn, in particular, gives a strong performance as a seasoned veteran who is forced to lead a squadron of younger, inexperienced pilots. Ultimately, The Dawn Patrol is an excellent drama, filled with action, suspense, and excellent performances. The film's message is clear: war is a brutal and senseless waste, and the toll it takes on even the most courageous and steadfast of men is immense. The Dawn Patrol is a testament to the bravery of those who fought in the first World War, and a reminder that war should always be avoided if possible.