B-52 | Chicago Reader


For documentarian Hartmut Bitomsky (Reichsautobahn) the B-52 bomber carries as much meaning as it does ordnance, and this 2001 feature manages to unload just about all of it. Designed in 1948, the B-52 has long been the backbone of the Strategic Air Command, and as one navigator notes of its recent deployments in Iraq and Kosovo, it's the aircraft we use to let other nations know we mean business. Bitomsky tracks the plane's history through the cold war and presents a gripping interview with Roger Ferguson, who flew airborne alert missions around the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis; equally compelling are stories about the “broken arrow” crashes of the 60s, which caused nuclear contamination in Spain, Greenland, and North Carolina. The film overreaches when it tries to unpack the cultural significance of the plane, though among the scattered riches are interviews with a guy who collects the nose art from retired bombers and conceptual artists who've created installations with their mangled scrap. The opening montage establishes the 185,000-pound behemoth as a thing of beauty, but Bitomsky goes a bit too far when he laments the planes' demolition, arguing that they should be respectfully disassembled. I'm guessing no one in Hanoi shares the sentiment. In English and subtitled German. 108 min.

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