Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Recommend this product?
I actually recorded No Highway in the Sky quite a bit of time ago, but I never found an occasion to watch it. I found the premise intriguing, of a scientist who predicts that a plane will crash due to a structural flaw only to find him on one such aircraft. The fact that the film starred Jimmy Stewart and Marlene Dietrich didn’t hurt at all either. Finally, I dusted the film off the other day to see how it would turn out. I have to say I was a little disappointed.
The film stars Stewart as Theodore Honey, a scientist working at Royal Aircraft Establishment. He is working on a stress test for the tail section of the new Reindeer airline jets, as he has postulated that after a certain number of hours in service (1440 to be exact), the tail will suffer catastrophic failure and fall off, causing the plane to nosedive and crash. No one at his workplace believes his theory until he meets Dennis Scott (played by Jack Hawkins), a new employee of the airline. After hearing Honey’s theory, Scott happens upon an old pilot buddy of his who informs him that one of the planes in question did crash, though it was attributed to pilot error. Scott, upon further investigation, discovers the plane crashed right around when Honey predicted the tail would fall off. The tail, it seems, was never found at the crash site.
Wanting to find out if Honey’s theories are true, Scott goes to the head of the company and advises him of what they have found. Determined to find the tail of the plane to see if the metal did in fact fatigue, it is determined that Honey will be sent to the crash site, as he is most likely to know what to look for. Honey agrees to go, and finds himself on a flight with movie star Monica Teasdale (played by Marlene Dietrich) and stewardess Marjorie Corder (played by Glynis Johns). It isn’t until the flight is in the air that Honey realizes he is on a Reindeer jet. After speaking to the members of the cockpit, he realizes the plane has already flown over 1400 hours, meaning everyone on board is in serious peril…
My main problem with the film is that it does a poor job of building suspense towards the potential crash of the plane. Other than Honey making his theories known to the crew and Monica, there is no real sense of danger being built to in the film. Honey and Monica discuss their lives and pasts, and he assures her and Marjorie that he is quite sure the plane would crash sooner than later, but there is never any other sign of potential danger. In fact, the flight itself is a relatively short part of the film, followed by a long amount of the aftermath. I found the pacing to be very odd for a film that was built around suspense and excitement, as I didn’t feel much of any.
What I did find interesting about the film was the performance of Stewart and the growth of his character Theodore. He starts as a quiet and odd scientist, clearly scarred by the death of his wife, as he focuses completely on his work and neglects the basic psychological needs of his daughter. He even goes so far in talking to Scott about how he is a scientist and can’t be considered about people and their lives, as it is the science itself that matters. As time goes on, we see remarkable growth in his character, as he begins to realize the value of the lives of other people, even as he doesn’t seem to concern himself with his own well-being. The acting by Stewart is very solid, as I felt like I wasn’t even seeing him on the screen, but the character he was playing. That’s very hard for me to do, be drawn into a performance like that, especially by a star as big as Stewart was.
The rest of the performances were capably done, even if they were rather one dimensional. Dietrich plays the role fair enough, but appears in the film more for name value rather than to add anything of substance to the film. The ending itself was predictable, as was the 2nd half of the film altogether. Plus, as I said before, the pacing was markedly off for the thriller-type of film.
Overall, I think the film was a little bit of a mess, but it can be overlooked by the very strong performance by Jimmy Stewart. His speech at the end had me thinking back to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and it was amazing to watch his progression throughout the film. While the pacing was off and the plot was uneven, I think the movie is worth seeing for Stewart alone.
“All those people there, makes you wonder which one you would pick to save if you were God, which one would matter much?”…3 out of 4 stars
Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children up Ages 8