Twelve O'Clock High

Director: Henry King
Year Released: 1949
Rating: 3.5

A bombing squadron during World War II loses its confidence and its leader falls apart, so Gregory Peck is sent in to straighten them out through toughness and power; his proto-fascist tactics don't work that well, so he learns to change his approach by becoming one of the men instead of simply being their leader and mouthpiece. This isn't really an action picture (although there are a few shots of real life aerial fighting), it's a psychological one, investigating the emotional and mental state of the men as they face certain danger; at the end, when Peck lets his troops go out on their own, he goes into a state of shock, the way a parent might after allowing his/her child free into the world. The entire cast is excellent - not simply Dean Jagger, who won the Academy Award - and the mannered pacing and dreariness of the beginning grow into a mature kind of acceptance and camaraderie at the end. This is a far cry from the repugnant showmanship and seeping bravado of Top Gun - these men are, after their mission is over, grateful to be alive and in one piece.