Pic is based on R. C. Sheriff’s 1929 London and Broadway stageplay, Journey’s End, a classic on the theme of the futility and boredom of trench warfare in which some men cracked up while others found ways – like the bottle – of averting crackup. Aces High packs little of the involving emotional credibility and impact of the play.
Characterization in the film is without sufficient ambiguity and dimension. Thus, the young British airmen of 76 Squadron are either bushy-tailed rookies (Peter Firth), disciplined but emotionally soft (Christopher Plummer), or scared stiff and bucking for medical discharge (Simon Ward). As their squadron leader, Malcolm McDowell is both brave and scared – and dependent on whisky to sustain him as a credible leader of machine-gun fodder.