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Film / Fortress (2012)

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Fortress, not to be confused with an earlier movie with the same name, is a war film released by Diamondback 99 in 2012. It tells a fictional (but inspired by real events) story of Lucky Lass, a B-17 Flying Fortress, and her crew, part of the 99th Bombardment Group (Heavy) based at Navrin, Algeria in 1943.

Despite a shoestring production budget that made for lots of Conspicuous CG, the movie was very well-researched and well-executed.


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Examples of the tropes include:

  • The Alcoholic: Most of the Lass's crew use alcohol to decompress from their high-risk bombing missions.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Though the US military was racially segregated in 1943, Hispanics were not subject to it. There would be nothing at all unusual about two Mexican gunners joining an otherwise all-White crew.
  • American Accents: Al is rather noticeably Bostonian.
  • America Won World War II: Realistically averted. The 99th is an important part of the war effort, but none of the missions are going to win the war or save the world in a day, and while the focus is on an American crew, every mission briefing includes a reminder that RAF bombers are doing their part as well.
  • Anachronism Stew: Not much. The B-17s sometimes display the "Stars & Bars" national insignia about four months before it was adopted. Monroe tries to charge Charlie with theft under the UCMJ when he should be using the Articles of War (the UCMJ was adopted after the war).
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  • Anyone Can Die: 1943-vintage air combat is realistically depicted as sudden, violent, and messy. Flak barrages send shrapnel everywhere, fighters make high-speed passes at the bombers, gunners frantically call out targets as machine guns roar, and men are blown apart without warning.
  • Atomic F-Bomb: "TAKE THAT, YOU KRAUT FUCK!!!"
  • Blood from the Mouth: The first indication that the hole in Archie's flak jacket is a bigger deal than we thought. He soon starts vomiting blood.
  • Brick Joke: The gunners' good-luck ritual of pissing on a particular tent peg before every mission. Leads to a funny moment when the occupant of the tent secured by said peg catches them in the act.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The guys tend to swear a lot, realistic for servicemen in a war zone. They swear a lot more when bullets start flying.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: One of the mechanics walks into Caparelli's hooch to ask him something. Caparelli is seated on his cot in his underwear, holding a rather racy photo of his wife.
    Caparelli: "Jesus Christ, don't you fuckers know how to knock?"
  • Eye Scream: Burt gets shrapnel to the face over Rome.
  • A Father to His Men: Pops evidently was. Wally employs the same style as aircraft commander, and it clearly rubs off on Mike Schmidt. Despite his Jerkass attitude, Tech Sgt. Caparelli is very protective of his ground crew. The Colonel seems to fit this category as well.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Joe gets hit by an explosive 20mm shell from a Messerschmitt. The camera POV immediately switches to a close-up of Charlie's horrified face as he's covered with the fine red spray that used to be Joe.
    • When Wally McAllister is killed, the camera focuses on Mike and the blood and bits of meat that are now all over him and the rest of the cockpit, then pans over slightly to reveal that there's not much left of Wally from the waist up.
  • Insult of Endearment: Al says to Charlie, "You're a shifty little fuck with no moral compass. I know you won't let me down!"
  • Military Moonshiner: The crew operates a still in Burt's tent.
  • Mood Whiplash: There's never any warning that somebody's about to get ripped apart by bullets or shrapnel.
  • New Meat: Replacement waist gunners Tom Martinez and Oliver Guiscard, and replacement copilot 2nd Lt. Mike Schmidt, all of them taking the place of men who died. The former pair are quickly accepted by the crew. Mike...not so much, though he eventually earns his way in.
  • The Neidermeyer: 1st Lt. Monroe, the quartermaster. In addition to being pretty much an all-around dick, he thinks that all of the stuff in Charlie O'Hara's requisition is being resold to the locals and refuses a lot of it on those grounds. Apparently he doesn't know how alcohol is made. He also thinks he's hilarious when he calls Charlie "Miss Scarlett".
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The "strobe effect" on spinning propellers (an artifact of film, and therefore something that audiences are accustomed to seeing) is deliberately added to the CGI aircraft.
  • Refuge in Audacity: When Lt. Monroe catches Charlie pilfering a case of scotch from the officer's club and hauls him into the group commander's tent to face charges, Mike shows up and says that he ordered Charlie to obtain alcohol to use as a cleaning solvent to fix the plane. The Colonel knows Mike's story is complete bullshit, but goes along with it because he's impressed to see the young replacement officer willing to go to bat (and possibly take the fall) for one of his enlisted crew, and because he thinks the whole thing is Actually Pretty Funny.
  • Shown Their Work: Diamondback 99's production budget was clearly less money than Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich wipe their ass with. Despite that, the movie is remarkably accurate.
    • Though the B-17s have the wrong national insignia (the "Stars & Bars" roundel wasn't adopted until 4 months after the movie takes place), and lack their nose and radio operator's guns (due to budget constraints with their sets), they are period-appropriate B-17F models. They also have the correct "Diamond-Y" unit markings of the "Diamondbacks," 99th Bombardment Group (Heavy), 12th Air Force.
    • German Bf-109 fighters have the camouflage pattern and unit markings of JG-27, which really did operate in Sicily and Southern Italy in the summer of 1943.
    • The cockpit set features a very faithful recreation of a real B-17 instrument panel. Every procedure performed by the pilots is lifted directly from the B-17 flight manual, including the correct control inputs.
  • Theme Naming: Lucky Lass's original crew were all ethnically Irish and named their plane accordingly. When Mike finally earns the crew's respect, radioman Sgt. Charlie O'Hara declares him an "honorary Irishman," while Wally jokingly adds that his new name is "Michael O'Schmidt." It's implied that this ceremony was already done for Oliver and Tom.
  • Tokyo Rose: Charlie tunes in a propaganda broadcast by Rita Zucca, AKA Axis Sally, for the crew's entertainment.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: The crew constantly banter, bicker, insult, and curse at eachother, officer and enlisted alike, but clearly trust eachother with their lives and love eachother like brothers. For example, Wally says that Archie is an asshole, with a smile that says, "I love that guy."
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Wally should've listened to the rest rest of the crew, who reacted to Ziri's spiced goat on couscous with a unanimous, "There's no way in hell we're eating that." The next day, he suddenly demands Burt's flak helmet during the mission, and leaves his intercom throat mic switched on, treating the rest of the crew to the sound of him heaving his guts out. The gunners do not pass up the opportunity to say, "We told you so!"
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Jake, the right waist gunner, gets a chestfull of German lead barely four minutes into the movie. Joe, the left waist gunner, stops an explosive 20mm shell with his ribs about 30 seconds later. The pilot, 1st Lt. "Pops" O'Connell, outlives Joe by about 12 seconds.

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