An uneven but ultimately entertaining wartime film, Captains of the Clouds plays like two separate films held together by the glue of James Cagney's considerable starpower. One film is a typical Cagney showcase, in which the brash star struts and swaggers and displays his ego, but does so in such an unhackneyed, unself-conscious way that audiences can't help falling for him. In this film, Cagney eventually reveals just what a good guy he is at heart by marrying a no-good woman to save his unwitting pal from that very fate. The second film deals with the rigors of military training and with heavy-duty aerial action sequences that pack a real punch. Director Michael Curtiz does well with both halves of the film, but not with unifying them; each stands on its own as perfectly fine entertainment, but they don't come together as naturally as is desired. Without Cagney in the lead, the two parts of the film would feel like strangers indeed. But Cagney is in control, and he forces the viewer into just accepting things the way they are. In addition to the star, the cast benefits from strong work from such familiar faces as Alan Hale and Dennis Morgan. But, Cagney aside, the film's real asset is the smashing aerial cinematography by a whole crew of expert photographers. They help to give the second half of the film real punch.
by Craig Butler review