The First of the Few

Watch The First of the Few

"The thrilling human story behind the plane that licked the Luftwaffe!"
  • Approved
  • 1942
  • 1 hr 58 min
  • 7.0  (2,081)

The First of the Few is a 1942 British film, directed by and starring Leslie Howard, based on the true story of R.J. Mitchell, the designer of the Supermarine Spitfire, one of Britain's most successful World War II fighter planes. The film depicts Mitchell's career as a talented engineer and his struggles to design, test and perfect the Spitfire, as well as his personal life, the tumultuous times in which he lived and the impact of his work on the British war effort.

The movie opens with a young Mitchell (played by Howard) working in the aviation industry before World War I, developing seaplanes and competing for contracts with other designers. Mitchell is shown to be a driven, stubborn and sometimes arrogant individual, but also a visionary with a passion for aviation and a desire to create the best possible aircraft. He is also shown to be affected by a serious medical condition, an obstacle that he manages to overcome with determination and the help of his wife (played by Rosamund John).

As the war breaks out, Mitchell faces a new set of challenges. He is initially reluctant to join the war effort, feeling that his work on planes for civilian use is more significant. However, after witnessing the destruction caused by bombing raids on British cities, Mitchell becomes determined to design a fighter plane that can outperform the German Messerschmitt, the dominant aircraft of the time. As he sets to work, he faces opposition from the British military, who are skeptical of his ideas, and from his own deteriorating health.

Mitchell's struggle to design and test the Spitfire takes up much of the film's focus. He is shown experimenting with various ideas and materials, overcoming setbacks and constantly refining his design, while also dealing with political and social obstacles, as well as his own doubts and fears. He is aided in his efforts by his loyal assistant, Geoffrey Crisp (played by David Niven), and by a team of dedicated workers, some of whom have personal connections to the victims of German aggression.

The film features several impressive scenes of aerial combat and flight, including a dramatic scene where Mitchell tests his latest design against a Messerschmitt in a mock dogfight. These scenes are well-shot for the time, blending model and real planes in a convincing way. However, the film's focus is more on the personal and human elements of Mitchell's story, rather than on action and spectacle.

Despite the serious and somewhat somber tone of the movie, there are also lighter moments and some romance, particularly between Mitchell and his wife, as well as between Crisp and a secretary who works in the factory. The occasional humor and uplifting messages help to balance out the film's more weighty themes and make it an enjoyable and inspiring experience, despite some of its dated elements.

The performances in The First of the Few are generally strong, with Leslie Howard's portrayal of R.J. Mitchell being the standout. He captures both the brilliance and the flaws of the real-life inventor, showing his drive and passion, as well as his stubbornness and moments of vulnerability. The supporting cast is also solid, with David Niven bringing charm and humor to his role as Crisp, and Rosamund John providing a sympathetic and strong portrayal of Mitchell's wife.

Overall, The First of the Few is an impressive and timely tribute to a British hero and an important figure in aviation history. It highlights the power of human determination, the importance of innovation and engineering, and the bravery of those who fought in World War II. While it may not be the most exciting or dynamic film ever made, it is a solid and well-made example of British wartime propaganda and a fascinating glimpse into a crucial period of British history.

The First of the Few is a 1942 war movie with a runtime of 1 hour and 58 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 7.0.

The First of the Few
Where to Watch The First of the Few
The First of the Few is available to watch, stream, download and buy on demand at Amazon. Some platforms allow you to rent The First of the Few for a limited time or purchase the movie and download it to your device.
  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 58 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.0  (2,081)