The Sound Barrier | Chicago Reader

The Sound Barrier

Public excitement over jet travel helped make David Lean's 1952 British feature a big hit, though its science doesn't wash and its majestic aerial sequences are uneasily wedded to a starchy familial drama. Ralph Richardson is the imperious owner of a pioneering aircraft company, who barely bats an eye when his lily-livered son (a young Denholm Elliott) dies in a test flight; Ann Todd (Lean's wife at the time) is the aerial tycoon's daughter, who blanches when dad enlists her ex-RAF husband (Nigel Patrick) to pilot his new supersonic plane, the Prometheus. Terence Rattigan's script has its moments, but it takes a backseat to the air show—the real-life jet planes are even listed among the supporting players.


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