This production of John Hersey’s novel The War Lover is accomplished in all respects save one: lack of proper penetration into the character referred to by the title. The scenario seems reluctant to come to grips with the issue of this character’s unique personality – a ‘war lover’ whose exaggerated shell of heroic masculinity covers up a psychopathic inability to love or enjoy normal relationships with women.
The story transpires in 1943 England and focuses on B-17 bombing raids over Germany, with the title character (Steve McQueen) a pilot of one of the planes.
That the central character emerges more of an unappealing symbol than a sympathetic flesh-and-blood portrait is no fault of McQueen, who plays with vigor and authority, although occasionally with two much eyeball emotion. Robert Wagner and Shirley Anne Field share the film’s secondary, but interesting, romantic story. Wagner does quite well, and Field has a fresh, natural quality.
Outside of his central failure director Philip Leacock does a sound job. Scenes of the bombing raids and accompanying aerial incidents are adroitly and authentically executed.