Above and Beyond (TV Mini-Series 2006– ) Poster

(2006– )

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Excellent period drama
bussey-11 November 2006
This film is a fantastic period drama that uses actual events to tell an enchanting story. It was quite enjoyable to watch the events leading up to the establishment of the Ferry Command unfold and the four hour running time seem to fly by. My only disappointment with part one was having to wait until the following night to see the second half. I am eagerly awaiting a rebroadcast or release to video so I can enjoy this entertaining film again.

It is refreshing to see Newfoundlanders portrayed as something other than comedic simpletons. This film is a showcase for the hospitality, generosity, wit, and intelligence for which Newfoundlanders have long been known.

It is unfortunate the filmmakers were unable to delve deeper into some of the events that occurred during that time such as German U-Boats landing in Newfoundland and Labrador to obtain fresh water and establish weather stations, or the sinking of the S. S. Caribou by a U-Boat.

There is a great deal of history in Newfoundland and it is always exciting when someone takes the time to present it to the world in such an entertaining and enjoyable manner. It is clear the filmmakers researched this subject very carefully and made certain that what was presented is historically accurate.

I hope this inspires others to dig into our history and heritage to create other cinematic works.
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A worthy effort
teacher_tom51612 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is the almost forgotten - except by those who were part of it - story of the plan to ferry Allied aircraft across the Atlantic from North American factories. Starting out as a clandestine project called 'the Atlantic Ferry' it became a vital link between a besieged Britain and the 'arsenal of democracy', the United States.

The production looks a bit like one of those Hallmark Channel specials w/c is not in and of itself a bad thing. The scripting is adequate and the plot sticks to the history without forgetting the drama. I liked the interplay between the lead, Shelagh and her two beaus, the dashing American expatriate 'top gun' and the quieter civilian Newfoundlander ex-boyfriend she left to make it big in the world. It's certainly a nice little movie that the people of Newfoundland can be proud of (certainly earns higher marks in my book than the Canadian 'Nouvelle France' and the dreadful American 'Pearl Harbor'). It's a movie my mom (who's a sap for love stories) - and I (the history buff) - can both enjoy.

Casting was good - by Hallmark movie standards. I liked the love triangle leads and the political heavies - Beaverbrook's newspaper mogul was well played as was the heroic Captain Don Bennett (played superbly by Richard E. Grant) - who, by the way was one of the youngest top rank officers in the RAF, attacked the German battleship Tirpitz and founded the legendary RAF Pathfinders which drastically improved the accuracy of the British bombing campaign against Germany.

I appreciate that this was done on a limited budget and having done my own ambitious yet limited budget movies in the past I can empathize with the producers. They did well with what they had. Sure they only had one 'Hudson' - I'm surprised that they were not able to get access to a B-17 Flying Fortress, there seem to be a lot of those for hire (or failing that, a flying model for aerial shots and a wood and canvas frame for the Lancaster to give it a bigger belly to simulate the B-24 Liberator that I know it was trying for!) - and maybe trying to at least keep post-war equipment out of sight. That being said... there were a few things that could have been better done.

The Lockheed Hudson was one of the workhorse anti-submarine bombers of the war, yet what Churchill mentions in the first cabinet scene is that 'the battle of Britain has begun'. Now I don't know about you but that immediately brings another, more iconic aircraft to mind - the SPITFIRE. Yet for all the 'battle of Britain' talk we don't see a single Spit throughout - nor should we. The Spits couldn't make it across the Atlantic. (Bear with me I'm going somewhere with this, honest). Now Beaverbrook complains that his convoys with crated aircraft are being sunk by German U-boats. Fine. Guess what aircraft was being sent AGAINST THE U-BOATS by RAF Coastal Command? Yup, it was the Hudson. The connection is never made that by ferrying Hudsons to the RAF, the Atlantic Ferry is making a contribution to ANOTHER equally important battle - the Battle of the Atlantic. The point could - and SHOULD - have been made that for every Hudson that reaches Britain, that's potentially one U-Boat killed and a better chance of the convoys reaching Britain. Yet it's only later, again with a high profile name, the Bismarck chase (though I liked that they referenced the HMS Hood!) that the sea war is brought into play. I think the scriptwriters 'missed the boat' (pun intended) by omitting this.

From the Wikipedia reference on the Hudson: "The Hudson achieved some significant feats during the war. On 8 October 1939, over Jutland, a Hudson became the first RAF aircraft to shoot down a German aircraft. (The accolade of the first British aircraft to shoot down a German plane went to the Blackburn Skua of the Fleet Air Arm on 26 September 1939.) They operated as fighters during the Battle of Dunkirk. A PBO-1 Hudson of US Navy squadron VP-82 became the first US aircraft to destroy a German submarine when it sank U-656 southwest of Newfoundland on 1 March 1942." Why weren't these brought into play about the Hudson? The last mentioned could have somehow been mentioned - at the very least we should have known that the Hudson was a key aircraft in the U-boat campaign, yet we never know what a valuable little aircraft this was, we only know it was nice to fly (once off the ground), apparently was prone to engine or mechanical failure w/c 'Yankee ingenuity' can fix with some foil cigarette wrapping.

It would have been nice to see some of the RESULTS of the flights - okay maybe it wasn't possible given budget constraints but a fight scene or two would have been good - maybe a montage sequence showing, after the Hudsons were delivered they were flown to Coastal Command squadrons, the pilots briefing and engines starting, recce missions over the coast, a U-boat attack on an unknowing victim thwarted by a snooping Hudson (achtung flugzeuger!) so we, the audience sees just HOW these guys contributed to the final victory.

But I guess you can't win 'em all. Like Don Bennett we must end the show with a bit of disappointment yet hopeful of better things to come. All in all, Above and Beyond, while not really 'going above and beyond the call of duty', was quite a worthy effort.
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Tynne31 October 2006
I rather enjoyed this movie. The costumes were excellent, the music was fantastic and the acting, if not Oscar worthy, was solid. The actors portraying the Newfoundlanders did themselves credit by portraying down-home, friendly characters in true East Coast style. Liane Balaban, who played Shelagh Emberly, was not great, her delivery lacked any real emotion but she carried herself well and wore the '40s era fashion with style. Richard E. Grant was amazing as Captain Bennett and Joss Ackland brought Churchill to life with vitality. Allan Hawco, who played Nathan Burgess, was a joy to watch, his performance was excellent. All in all it was wonderful to watch a movie about WWII which promoted Canadians and Newfoundlanders and our involvement in the war effort.
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I rather enjoyed it!!!
nancyhana30 October 2006
A very nice little show, I've only seen part I also, and am looking forward to part 2.. I am not a WWII buff, so I don't know of the accuracy of all the situations. But as a good Canadian movie I thought it was great! I thought the actors did a good job in portraying the era. The main characters had good interaction between each other. I liked the plot including a small town NFLD, playing a major role, I would like to see how real/accurate this movie was. (As the person above noted many mistakes.) I noticed they have some online information about the what really happened and real pictures and comments. Even some help for teachers. Overall I enjoyed it and am eagerly looking forward to watching part II :)
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pretty good
godbless-catastrophe30 October 2006
I saw this movie last night and I was surprised that it was actually pretty good, but thats only after seeing part 1. Truthfully the only reason I started watching it was because some of it was filmed here in Gander, NL, and some of my friends were extras and I thought it would be funny/cool to see them on TV, but once I started watching it I found it pretty interesting. I, personally, haven't learned a lot about WW2 yet so I can't critique on whether it was accurate or not but I enjoyed it and it was a good story. I'm also glad that one of the lead female parts was played by somebody that wasn't tall, thin and pretty. All 'n all, as I said, I thought it was pretty good. I would have given it a 6 but since it was partially shot in my hometown, I gave it a 7.
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Pretty bad
crawford-bd31 October 2006
That this was definitely not a great production. Although I admit that the story was entertaining and the acting wasn't bad. The computer generated imaging was terrible, and in almost in every scene I could see historical inaccuracies. All in all, a very amateurish production. Here are some factual inaccuracies I found.

  • The DC-3 shown was equipped with the wrong engines (modern turboprops), and of course sounded nothing like a DC-3.

  • One scene shows a de Havilland Chipmunk trainer in a hangar. There were no Chipmunks in service in 1940; the first one flew in 1946.

  • The RCAF ensign with maple leaf roundel was not in use in 1940. Use of the RCAF ensign with the leaf in the roundel wasn't used until 1941. If you saw a flag in 1940 it would have been the RAF ensign.

  • The USAAF landed in Gander in a Lancaster bomber. The USAAF did not use Lancasters, and certainly couldn't have been using them in 1940 since they were not yet in active operational service.

  • A modern dial tone could be heard during overseas telephone calls between Bennett and Lord Beaverbrook.
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Well intentioned but dreadful
bluejay5221 December 2008
Here is a television mini-series that one wills to be good, but all the wishful thinking in the world can't forgive its flaws. On the plus side, the setting is authentic in terms of greater geographic area and the cast does fairly well despite a sophomoric and uninspired script. Poor Joss Akland does his best although he is badly miscast as Winston Churchill. On the minus side, the film's budget was too low to allow the story to be well told or the period convincingly evoked. There are simply too many historical inaccuracies, too few of the right types of airplanes (and many that are inappropriate), and too much reliance on amateurish and unconvincing computer-generated aerial sequences that serve only to squander credibility. Sadly, the more one knows of history, the less forgivable these failings become.

I should perhaps reserve judgment because I did not see more than a third of Above and Beyond. I turned it off (something I rarely do with aviation films) in utter disgust after a Lockheed Hudson makes a crash landing due to an engine fire. The orchestration of this emergency and its cheesy digital realization were so ludicrously inept that the producers should have fired their technical adviser on the spot. That is, if they even had one. I suspect they didn't because the interior mock-up of the Hudson cockpit entirely lacked a pilot's side window. Hello! All in all, this mini-series was a promising concept that ended up doing a disservice to those who actually organized and performed those transatlantic ferry flights early in World War II. Here was an opportunity -- unfortunately missed -- to make up for Captains of the Clouds, the 1942 Jimmy Cagney film that likewise ends with an unconvincing depiction of Hudsons being ferried from Canada to the United Kingdom.
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Historical wartime event set in romantic drama
SimonJack24 January 2015
This film is about a major event during World War II for which no previous movies had been made. "Above and Beyond" is based on a true story. The writers, John W. Doyle and Lisa Porter tell the story as it might have happened behind the scenes with the major characters in the British war effort. The young actors have most of the lead roles in the film. They form the romantic vehicle for the story. Those fictional roles are all fine, but none exceptional. On the other hand, the casting of the real characters in history is superb. And, the portrayals of Winston Churchill, Don Bennett, Lord Beaverton, Archibald Sinclair, and Dr. Sir Frederick Banting are wonderful.

A movie based on a historical event, especially about World War II, arouses the history buff in me. So, some reading and researching led me to find out more interesting details about the story and the key players in history who appear in the film. Perhaps other movie buffs will enjoy this as well.

Construction of Gander International Airport began in 1936. In the movie, Capt. Don Bennett (played excellently by Richard E. Grant) says about Gander, "Largest slab of tarmac in the world. Built for the trans- Atlantic passenger service. Rather ahead of its time." To which Lord Beaverbrook (played excellently by Kenneth Welsh) replies, "I do believe its time has come." So, it became the base for the Atlantic Ferry service. Today it is a civilian airport with a Canadian Air Force base sharing the airfield. It is home to air/marine search and rescue that covers a large area of the Western Atlantic.

Don Bennett was a native Australian and famous aviator who set flight records in the 1930s. He was the first superintendent of the Atlantic Ferry service which he helped set up as a private operation. As in the movie, he led the first flight of seven Hudson aircraft that crossed the North Atlantic on Nov. 10, 1940. Bennett was a stern man, whom many British leaders found arrogant and abrasive. But aviators held him in high esteem. His 1935 book, "The Complete Air Navigator" was the essential textbook on the subject for more than 30 years. In the summer of 1941, the service was reorganized as the Atlantic Ferry Organization (AFTERO) within the RAF. Bennet left and went on to a distinguished war record, rising to the rank of Air Vice-Marshal. He later became CEO of British South American Airways. He was the only senior RAF officer from the war who wasn't knighted. Bennett never drank, smoked or was heard to curse or swear. Scenes in the movie show him drinking a whiskey and a gin and tonic with Lord Beaverbrook, but he never drank.

Lord Beaverbrook was a Canadian, born William Maxwell "Max" Aitken. He grew up in New Brunswick and by age 30 was a millionaire. He became a business tycoon, newspaper publisher and politician. He moved to England at age 30 in 1908, and expanded his businesses. He won a seat in the House of Commons in 1910. He was highly regarded as an organizer. Winston Churchill was a political friend who persuaded him to serve as Minister of Aircraft Production. Numerous books relate the great service Beaverbrook performed for England. He later renounced his British citizenship and returned to Canada, where he was a major philanthropist until his death in 1964 at age 85. Many of his charities and philanthropies exist today.

Peter Messaline plays Archibald Sinclair and bears an uncanny physical resemblance to him. Sinclair is a frequent antagonist to Lord Beaverbrook. He was the head of the Liberal party, which then held only 20 seats in Parliament. But, he had been a friend of Winston Churchill since serving under him during WW I. With WW II underway, Churchill became Prime Minister on May 10, 1940 and established an all-party cabinet to involve all political parties in the leadership of the war effort. He asked Sinclair to head the air ministry. After the war, Sinclair's fortunes mostly faded, but he was elevated to the House of Lords in the last years of his life.

Dr. Sir Frederick Banting was a Canadian and co-discoverer of insulin. He won the Nobel Prize for medicine/physiology in 1923 at age 32. He is the youngest person ever to have received the Nobel Prize in his field. Many institutions of learning and research in Canada today bear his name. Jason Priestly plays him splendidly in the movie. As the film shows, he hitched a ride from Gander to England on Friday, Feb. 21, 1941, and died when his plane crashed not long after takeoff. The movie doesn't give any more details. But the news accounts of the event tell what happened. Captain Joseph Mackey was the pilot and radioed that an engine had failed. They were going to return to Gander and the radio went silent in the movie.

The plane crashed in the bush just 10 miles from Musgrave Harbor, a fishing village located in the far northeast of Newfoundland just 60 miles from Gander. There were no roads into the area until 1956. Local residents later told of hearing a plane flying very low the day of the crash. But they didn't know about the crash until they heard a radio news broadcast Saturday evening that said a plane had crashed in the Newfoundland wilds with a famous doctor on board. Villagers on snowshoes found the wreck site five days after the crash and carried the men out on sleighs. Captain Mackey was the only survivor. Banting died from injuries and exposure.

Joss Auckland plays the unshakable Winston Churchill perfectly. Nothing more needs to be said about the great politician, author and orator who truly is one of the great men of the 20th century.
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A Great Story Waiting To Be Retold
julian-isitt12 November 2014
As others have noted, this film's low budget clearly shows. Moreover, in an effort I expect to make it more palatable to prime time TV audiences, it is melodramatic in the extreme, and distractedly so to anyone with an interest in aviation history.

On a positive note, the film captures some of the reality surrounding the establishment of a wartime transoceanic air ferry service. The contribution made to the Allied effort was immense. Tens of thousands of desperately needed multi-engine aircraft were delivered to the Royal Air Force and others. The alternative of transport by ship in U-boat infested waters was too risky and inefficient. Moreover, reliance wholly on military air crew would have been too wasteful of scarce resources.

"Above and Beyond" unfortunately reduces heroic history to theatrical pablum. Hopefully and before too long, another production organization will step up and do it right. The story is too important not to be told or, as is necessary in this case, retold.
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Crossing the Pond.
rmax30482328 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The budget for a piece of crap like "Pearl Harbor" was $140 million. The budget for the equally fatuous "Titanic" was $200 million. That's a lot of money. A few years ago I read about all the aid "flowing from China into North Korea." The figure given was $250 million, not enough to cover two bloated CGI extravaganzas.

I think I must have written 250 million movie comments by now and I never thought I'd hear myself say, "I wish this production had a bigger budget." It only cost $6 million, and it shows.

The story is entertaining, educational, and sticks fairly closely to historical reality, or so I'd guess. It involves the inception, organization, and successful implementation of the cross-Atlantic ferry flights of war planes from Gander, Newfoundland, to English bases. It's rather nicely written, at an adult level, and rarely dull. There is, of course, a love story but it's nicely joined to the plot. The location shooting in Newfoundland is effective, even if washed out.

But the minimal budget of this TV mini-series detracts from its value. I'll just mention two of the obvious weaknesses. The computer-generated images are okay, in the sense that they get the job done. But evidently only one or two aircraft in flying condition were available. One is a Lockheed Hudson. It's not a very glamorous airplane and we see the same one over and over. And then a USAAF Liberator lands and, lo, it is a British Lancaster. The sets are minimal. Several scenes take place within the Hudson in flight, but the interiors look as if they were made of cardboard and we never do get to see the inside of the whole fuselage.

Of the performances, only two or three are memorable. One is Joss Ackland's Winston Churchill, bug-eyed, flabby, demanding, ironic. Another's is Richard E. Grant as Lord Beaverbrook's representative in Gander. He's charged with a most improbable task -- getting this ferry business off the ground -- and he always looks properly worried, as he should. But he's not a stereotype. He's not Harry Andrews, scowling and barking out orders, telling his staff to shape up. He looks more as if he's about to explode with uncertainty, beginning with his intense blue eyes popping out of his head.

The other interesting performance is by Liane Balaband who begins as a mere secretary, turns into Grant's major domo, and finds her true love with a quiet young man in her native Gander, while letting her dashing American pilot fly off to his own destiny. Balaband has a curious beauty. She has endearingly big ears, and when she smiles, all of her features seem to slant upwards to the right side of her face. It's as if someone had sliced her head in half along the sagittal plane and then put the two pieces back together slightly askew. She has no shoulders to speak of but when she minces along at her accustomed pace she shows a canty rear end. She's very sexy. And she's smoothly beautiful too, even her bony nose, rather like a brunette Cate Blanchett, if you know what I mean, but without the same measure of talent. I realize Balaban is a Canadian but she speaks something like a Valley Girl. Her utterances come in quick bursts full of hissing sibilants. She has one of the most expressive and magnetic presences in the movies.

The rest of the acting ranges from poor to acceptable. And the director has allowed some of them to overplay their hands. Beaverbrook could hardly have been so abrasive. Although, come to think of it, we see that he's been balling his pretty secretary right there in his office, so who knows? I appreciated that little bit of information. It adds dimension to his character.

It's an intelligent script but I do wish they'd had more money. It ought to be remade with a larger budget, but instead we'll see expensive remakes of "Titanic" and "Pearl Harbor." The Titanic will be pieced together and raised from the bottom of the ocean, and the last living survivor -- now 145 years old -- will hobble aboard and tell us the memories of her love affair with a humble stoker.
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rps-229 October 2006
This is written after viewing part I. I may not bother with part II. The story is a good one, the creation of Ferry Command in the early, dark years of World War II. But the production is sloppy and melodramatic, peopled with cardboard stereotypes right out of the Hardy Boys and hopelessly contrived situations. The special effects look as though they were done with a Commodorte 64 and there is a huge list of factual errors. For example, BOAC was not formed until after the war. In 1940 it was known as Imperial Airways. There was no such thing as CP Air in 1940. (Canadian Pacific Airlines at that time was a very small regional operation in British Columbia.) The supposedly Montreal homes are obviously in Toronto. Some props (radio equipment, fire extinguishers, thermos bottles, airport tractors and hangars) were blatantly of post war vintage. The portrayals of Churchill and Beaverbrook are reasonably good. The rest is an unfortunate joke. PS/I STAND CORRECTED. BOAC WAS FORMED IN 1940
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The airplanes deserve an apology
vigihawk24 June 2008
Possible the worst movie on my favorite subject of aviation. Right up there with 'Pearl Harbor' for a what-were-they-thinking stinker. There are so many errors of fact that it is not worth sitting thru the miserable acting and plot to note them all. The announcement that the Nazis had two aircraft carriers (as already noted in IMDb goofs) was bad enough, but to have an American general arrive in a RAF Lancaster bomber was way beyond credible. Even the costuming was bad; uniforms did not fit, there were too many meal ribbons and why were neckties not drawn up correctly.

Only good parts were with the actual flyable Lockheed Hudson and all too brief scenes with the Avro Lancaster.
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I wanted to like this film so badly.....
cougarblue27 February 2012
The subject this film is based upon has no much potential for making a first class, exciting and meaningful product, but here it fails to live up to what might have been. One of my favorite documentaries is "Flying the Secret Sky", dealing also with shuttling desperately needed bombers to England. It features interviews from the actual pilots, while being a documentary I give it a 9, heads above "Above and Beyond" which I rate as a 3. It could have been a good picture but it suffers mightily from HORRIBLE dialogue and abysmal casting. Attempts to build sexual tension between the airport tower controller and the female lead, who left rural Newfoundleand for Montreal, but now she's unhappily forced to return to work closely with her ex steady, fall flat. The way she deals with the ex and with her nasty, uber controlling, mother just seem clumsy and unrealistic. The bratish and very corny dialogue doesn't help. In some ways the screenwriter feels the need to educate the viewer by illustrating the characters quirks over and over, laboriously. as if the audience has an average IQ just above an orange. Lord Beaverbrook is a lecherous old man who likes to hang up on a caller who is begging for clarification in order to carry out an assignment. We get to see him preform the little trick time after time. The RAF project director who is on the opposite end of the phone is as sullen and wooden as a cigar store Indian, a completely unpleasant character. We see Beaverbrook buttoning up after bedding a secretary a bit too often, WE GET IT. The female lead is a pitiful actress who spits out the predicable and simplistic lines like a 3rd grader in a school play, with a bitchiness that doesn't work. Her appearance, this is a 3 hour film after all, is distracting, she is a combination of Olive Oyl. with Clark Gable Asian Elephant ears, playing the role of a sex- tease with is supposed to be drop dead beautiful and unresistable, twisting the boys around her pinkie finger. The part calls for a Julie Roberts-type, we get Popeyes main squeeze, instead. Avoid this little mini-series, the lines will put you in a stuper, the characters are distracting and very unlikable. If you wish to delve into the topic get a copy of Flying The Secret Sky, it's exciting and keeps you glued to the screen, the real life pilots are charming, humble despite their accomplishments having shown extraordinary courage. Because I love flying and I've studied WW II extensively I wanted to like this movie but I found I couldn't just watch it and relax letting myself be entertained. Everyone is PO'ed at each other, their words snotty without a glimmer of wit. If I never see the female lead in another project, I will be grateful. Folks don't quit your day jobs, you'all can't write, direct or act.
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Oh, dear
spamaddress-331 October 2006
The lighting was good. That's about all I can say. But, oh dear, what a flat piece of work. Some of the performances were very good, especially from the supporting cast. They all deserve medals, though, in light of the uninspired writing, very poor costuming/hair and deadly direction. The animations of airplanes were so easily identifiable as such that at times I thought I was watching Saturday morning cartoons. Conflicts that seemed to rise out of nowhere. Is this an editing problem? Or was it just bad writing and/or direction? Anachronisms abounded. Who's minding the store? Someone should have known what hairstyles and fashions prevailed at the time before this project was started. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.........
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