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United Kingdom 1944
Directed by
Carol Reed
115 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

The Way Ahead

The British cranked out a flotilla of more or less interchangeable wartime propaganda films but The Way Ahead stands out because of its lively and slightly tongue-in-cheek script by Eric Ambler and Peter Ustinov whilst Carol Reed’s superior direction gives it a style rarely seen in this category.

The story of a group of decent ordinary fellows, conscripted and sent off to boot camp to become fighting machines against the Hun, it serves up the familiar traits of a typology of characters but does so with a dry humour that makes Coward's comparable In Which We Serve (1942) look heavy-handed.  An equally familiar roster of character actors of this period of British film, headed by David Niven, play the soldiers, whilst Reed makes the training sessions look remarkably convincing (the film started life as an Army training and instructional film, "The New Lot," written by Ustinov and Ambler and starring some of the cast that finished up in The Way Ahead). The film looses its charm when the company of now trained soldiers finally see action in North Africa (at which point Ustinov appears as an Arab café owner) but for the most part it manages to stand up irrespective of its propagandistic purpose.




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