Viewers going to see Above and Beyond hoping for an in-depth, even-handed examination of the origins of Israel should scale back those hopes — a lot. This is undeniably a fascinating film about a fascinating group of men in an extraordinary situation, but on any deeper political level, it’s simplistic in the extreme. Accept it for what it is, however, and it’s impressive — and it’s most certainly entertaining. We are, after all, talking about a movie where among the interviewees we find Paul Reubens talking about his pilot dad. It’s the sort of thing you couldn’t make up. Much the same can be said about many of the events addressed — from Frank Sinatra offering to smuggle money to setting up a bogus Panamanian airline to get planes out of America. And none of that factors in the business of the German planes. As stories go, this one is pretty wild.
But apart from the outrageous nature of the story and all the state-of-the-art ILM recreations of historical events, the core of the film ends up being the surviving pilots talking about their experiences. A lot of this is humorous in nature. The pilots don’t paint themselves as anything like saints, and many of their “war stories” center on drinking, carousing, and womanizing — things that didn’t make them popular with the locals. But other things, like the stories of fallen comrades lend a sobering tone, as do their memories of the then-prevalent anti-Semitism in the U.S.
The Asheville Jewish Film Festival and the Fine Arts Theatre present Above and Beyond for two showings — Thursday, May 14, at 7 p.m. and Friday, May 15, at 1 p.m. at Fine Arts Theatre.