Directed by: Richard Jukes
Narrated by: Sir Martyn Lewis
To celebrate 100 years of courage, perseverance and innovation, Richard Jukes directs a brand new documentary on the Royal Air Force. The documentary introduces us to former service men and women who discuss what it was/is like to be a part of the RAF, a look at how innovative they’ve been over the last 100 years and why that has been important to their continuous success.
Sir Martyn Lewis lends his voice to this documentary as it’s narrator. Lewis is best known for his for his news reporting for the BBC back in the 80’s and 90’s – Fun Fact: he also had appeared in ‘The World is Not Enough’ as a newsreader.
Admittedly, my knowledge of the RAF (and aeroplanes in general) is fairly lacking, which is why I was keen to watch this documentary. Thankfully it was as insightful and eye opening as I’d hoped it would be, and the mixture of footage with narration and interviews with former and present service men and women managed to maintain my attention throughout – which is quite a rare occurrence for me when it comes to documentaries.
The beginning of the documentary focusses heavily on the World War 1 & 2, showing some incredible footage of how the RAF was constantly innovating their planes to make sure they had the upper-hand against the country’s enemies. The documentary takes a look at some of the incredible machinery the RAF developed and piloted, including Hurricanes, Meteor F3’s, Vampires, and the iconic Lancaster Bombers and Spitfires. Former service men and women are introduced and share their experience of their time in the RAF and what it was like to fly into war.
The World Wars are obviously subjects that were touched upon during my school years, and there are numerous films and other documentaries that focus on them, but I’ve never watched anything before with the sole focus on the RAF during this period. The interviews with some of the men and women that piloted these incredible pieces of machinery were incredibly touching because you can really tell how proud they were to serve their country and they’re incredibly modest about their roles.
The documentary then continues to discuss how the RAF has continued to grow and innovate through the years, including their involvement in the Iraq War and the current fight against so-called Islamic State, and how they’ve played a key role supporting ground forces. During this section we’re given a greater insight on how the RAF’s role has grown over the years and how they had to adapt and innovate to new challenges and new threats. A number of current service men and women of various different rankings are interviewed and discuss their role and the challenges they face.
Drones are also discussed towards the end of the film. This technology is fairly new but there have already been huge leaps in this unmanned technology already, with a couple future hopes touched upon by Lewis.
Of course, the RAF isn’t just for war purposes. The documentary makes a great point of reminding us of the invaluable Valley Mountain Rescue (RAFMRS) division, the RAF’s involvement delivering aid to countries following disasters, and the iconic Red Arrows. Having this section towards the end of the film feels makes for an effective reminder after the first hour is mostly spent telling us their use during wars and conflicts.
The narration and footage is often accompanied by some inspirational sounding music, but it never distracts you from what’s happening on screen or from what Lewis is saying. I often find that music in documentaries can be quite off putting and distracting, especially when directors use it during real footage, but I can happily say I didn’t think this was the case for here.
With a centuries worth on innovation being discussed, this documentary manages to be incredibly informative and eye opening within it’s 94 minutes runtime. My initial fear before watching the documentary was that it might just focus on one aspect of the RAF – the pilots. Thankfully Jukes ensures there is a variety of service men and women from all ranks and time of service are interviewed, with each of them giving us an insight into their role and teaching viewers that each role they have is equally as important as their peers.
“Innovation has and always will underpin the success and ethos of the RAF”