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The Shepherd (2023) | Transcript

On Christmas Eve, a fighter pilot on his way home gets lost mid-flight over water and needs a miracle to land safely.
Ben Radcliffe as Freddie Hooke in the Disney+ Original Short Film THE SHEPHERD

The Shepherd is a 2023 British drama short film written and directed by Iain Softley and starring Ben Radcliffe and John Travolta. It is based on Frederick Forsyth’s 1975 book of the same title.[1] The film was released on Disney+ on December 1, 2023.

On Christmas Eve, a young Royal Air Force pilot, flying home across the North Sea finds himself in peril when his radio and electric power cut out, leaving him stranded and running on limited fuel. Just when it appears his luck is about to run out, a mysterious good Samaritan alters his fate.

* * *

(RADIO STATIC)

CONTROLLER: (OVER RADIO) Crocodile Lima, Monkey Delta.

Can you read me?

Crocodile Lima, Monkey Delta.

Can you read me? Do you require assistance?

♪ In the bleak midwinter ♪

♪ Frosty wind made moan ♪

♪ Earth stood hard as iron ♪

♪ Water like a stone ♪

(MEN LAUGHING)

♪ Schnee ging nieder, bergeschwer ♪

♪ Schnee auf Schnee lag schwer ♪

(MALE VOICE GRUNTS)

(INDISTINCT CHATTER)

FEMALE VOICE: (INDISTINCT CHATTER IN GERMAN) Jacob!

MALE VOICE: We’re gonna get you!

(CHRISTMAS SONG PLAYING OVER STEREO)

(INDISTINCT CHATTER)

MALE VOICE: I’ll get a round!

FEMALE VOICE: Nice! Who’s this guy?

(CHUCKLES)

Whoo!

FREDDIE’S MUM: Hello?

FREDDIE: Mum?

FREDDIE’S MUM: Freddie!

Hi, Mum.

I’m… I’m just calling to say Happy Christmas.

FREDDIE’S MUM: Oh, so your leave didn’t come through?

Uh, I’m afraid not. But I… I’ll be home in a couple of weeks.

FREDDIE’S MUM: Oh, have you told Lizzie?

FREDDIE: I’m gonna call her now.

FREDDIE’S MUM: Well, Happy Christmas, darling. We’ll miss you.

FREDDIE: Me, too. Tell that sister of mine…

Happy Christmas, Stinky.

(BOTH CHUCKLE)

Happy Christmas, Sal.

SALLY: Give my love to Lizzie!

Okay. Bye, sis.

(LINE DISCONNECTS)

Mum?

(SONG CONCLUDES)

(INDISTINCT CHATTER)

(SOFT MUSIC PLAYING)

(DASHWOOD CLEARS THROAT)

What happened to you?

Snowball fight of all things.

Some other lucky bugger gets home for Christmas.

So you’re not flying tonight?

Really?

Sorry.

SHIP SECURITY OFFICER: You’re sure about this?

You’ve only just got your night rating.

It’s over an hour to Lakenheath.

It’s a straight run across the North Sea.

Well, the weather has changed unexpectedly.

Forecast is clear skies till morning, so perfect night for flying.

Everything seems to have stacked up in your favor.

Looks like you’re going home for Christmas.

Thank you, sir.

(INDISTINCT CHATTER IN GERMAN)

(WOMAN CHUCKLES)

Hey. No time to call your girlfriend. I’ve gotta get you out of here tonight.

All right. Come on then.

Talk to you from the tower.

(MILD TEMPO MUSIC PLAYING)

Evening, Jack.

They’re nearly ready for you, sir.

SHIP SECURITY OFFICER: You’ll turn onto course 265, climb to 27,000 feet over the Dutch coast to the North Sea.

Got it.

Sixty-six-minute flight.

You’ve got fuel for more than 80 minutes in the air.

Touch down to Lakenheath, 23, 25.

On reaching height, maintain course and keep speed to 350 knots.

Soon as you leave our airspace, we’ll be shutting down.

You’ll have the sky to yourself.

Good luck.

(CLEARS THROAT) All ready, Jack?

Yeah. Nice clear night, sir.

FREDDIE: Mm.

Well, uh, Merry Christmas, sir.

Frohe Weinachten, Jack.

If you say so, sir.

(MILD TEMPO MUSIC PLAYING)

JIM: (OVER RADIO) Charlie Delta, taxi for runway 24.

Quebec, Foxtrot, Echo, 1014. Surface wind, 230 degrees, 10 knots.

FREDDIE: Charlie Delta, taxi for runway 24,

Quebec, Foxtrot, Echo, 1014.

JIM: (OVER RADIO) Charlie Delta, clear line up and takeoff.

FREDDIE: Charlie Delta rolling.

JIM: (OVER RADIO) Celle Approach, Charlie Delta, signing on to 265, climbing the level 280. And away you go.

JIM: (OVER RADIO) Charlie Delta.

FREDDIE: Charlie Delta, Celle.

JIM: (OVER RADIO) Charlie Delta, clear for takeoff.

FREDDIE: Roger that, tower.

(DRAMATIC MUSIC PLAYING)

FREDDIE: Charlie Delta. Clear airfield. Wheels up and locked.

Happy Christmas, Jim.

JIM: (OVER RADIO) Happy Christmas, Freddie.

♪ Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells all seem to say, throw cares away ♪

♪ Christmas is here, bringing good cheer ♪

♪ To young and old, meek and the bold ♪

♪ One seems to hear words of good cheer from everywhere, filling the air ♪

♪ Oh, how they pound, raising their sound o’er hill and dale, telling their tale ♪

♪ Gaily they ring while people sing songs of good cheer, Christmas is here ♪

♪ On, on they send, on without end their joyful tone, to every home ♪

♪ Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells all seem to say, throw cares away ♪

♪ Christmas is here, bringing good cheer ♪

♪ To young and old, meek and the bold ♪

(FREDDIE INHALES DEEPLY)

♪ One seems to hear words of good cheer from everywhere, filling the air ♪

♪ Oh, how they pound, raising their sound o’er hill and dale, telling their tale ♪

♪ Gaily they ring while people sing songs of good cheer, Christmas is here ♪

♪ Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas ♪

♪ On, on they send, on without end their joyful tone, to every home ♪

(LIGHTS BUZZING)

(OMINOUS MUSIC PLAYING)

FREDDIE: (SIGHS) Bloody compass.

(GRUNTS)

Compass failure. Compass failure.

Come on.

Celle, Charlie Delta. Celle, Charlie Delta.

Calling North Beveland Control. Compass failure.

Request a radio-assisted approach. Alert RAF Lakenheath.

Celle, Charlie Delta. Celle, Charlie Delta.

Do you read me? Request a ground-controlled approach.

Uh, RAF Lakenheath, ETA 2340.

(DRAMATIC MUSIC PLAYING)

FREDDIE: Celle, Charlie Delta. Celle, Charlie Delta.

Require radio assistance.

Come on. Someone talk to me.

Celle, Charlie Delta. Celle, Charlie Delta.

Calling Lakenheath Control. Electrical failure. Come in.

Celle, Charlie Delta. Calling Lakenheath Control.

Multiple instrument failure. Do you read me? Come on!

Come on, come on! Just work! (SIGHS)

How can I land if I’ve got no one to talk me down?

(SIGHS) Switching to emergency channel.

Celle, Charlie Delta. Celle, Charlie Delta.

(CLEARS THROAT) Calling Lakenheath Control. Come in.

(OMINOUS MUSIC PLAYING)

FREDDIE: If anyone can hear me, this is Celle, Charlie Delta.

Instrument failure.

Only speed and altitude functioning, will attempt visual navigation.

Attempting to fly to Norwich.

Land at the nearest airfield…

Miriam St. George.

Fuel status, only 1,200 pounds remaining.

God. (BREATHES HEAVILY)

(GROANS) Fog as well now. Oh no.

Celle, Charlie Delta. Emergency. Calling all channels.

Throttling back and descending to 10,000 feet to save my fuel.

Commencing emergency distress procedure. Flying triangular flight pattern.

Hopefully someone will pick me up on radar.

It’s my only hope.

(PENSIVE MUSIC PLAYING)

FREDDIE: Fuel status critical.

Seven hundred pounds remaining.

Lord, please get me out of this bloody mess.

Please send someone to lead me down.

(GROANS)

Fuel level critical. Three hundred pounds remaining.

Current estimation, ten minutes remaining before ditching.

Continuing to fly triangular flight pattern.

(BREATHES HEAVILY)

Why can’t anybody see my up here?

Why won’t somebody listen to me?

Emergency fuel level reached.

Estimate five minutes to ditching.

Lizzie…

(BREATHES HEAVILY) if this is it, then…

I want you to know that… I don’t seem to be afraid anymore.

Just really sad.

Sad for all the things that we’ll never do… all the places we’ll never see together.

All I wanted was to come home to spend Christmas with you.

(MILD TEMPO MUSIC PLAYING)

LIZZIE: Why don’t you come inside? It’s freezing out here.

Come in. Out of the cold.

FREDDIE: This is Charlie Delta calling all channels.

Sea ditching now inevitable.

This may be my last communication.

(SOMBER MUSIC PLAYING)

CONTROLLER: (OVER RADIO) Croc… Lima… Can you… read…

Identify your position.

FREDDIE: Charlie Delta. Do you read me?

Charlie Delta, request your ID.

CONTROLLER: (OVER RADIO) Crocodile Lima, Monkey Delta.

Can you read me?

FREDDIE: This is Charlie Delta, not Monkey Delta.

En route Miriam. Instrument failure. Request assisted approach.

Come on. Come on.

(GRUNTS)

Charlie Delta, Crocodile Lima. Do you read me?

He can’t hear me.

Charlie Delta, Crocodile Lima. Do you read me?

He can’t hear me.

What the hell’s going on?

Why can I hear him, but he can’t hear me?

CONTROLLER: (OVER RADIO) Have you sustained structural damage?

Do you require assistance?

FREDDIE: Charlie Delta to Crocodile Lima. Yes! Require assistance.

(MILD TEMPO MUSIC PLAYING)

FREDDIE: Charlie Delta to Crocodile Lima. Please confirm you have a visual on me.

A Mosquito…

Thank you.

(BREATHES DEEPLY)

Do you read me?

Charlie Delta. Yes, I… Yeah, I can hear you.

Roger that.

Negative on your transmissions, I can’t hear you.

Use your hand signals.

Do you have structural damage?

Electrical failure.

What’s your fuel status?

Okay. Three minutes.

Line up on me, and let’s start our descent.

You’re doing fine.

Thank you.

Okay. You’ve got four miles to touchdown.

Make sure your landing gear is down and locked.

That’s it.

Okay, we’re three miles out. Follow me down, I’m taking you home.

Here we go. Now, don’t lose sight of my wing.

Two miles out. Start down, five hundred feet per minute.

How’s your fuel?

Stay with me.

We’ve got a mile to go. We’re slowing down to 110 knots.

Continue descent, 300 feet per minute.

Okay, there’s your runway straight ahead. You’re clear to land.

Merry Christmas.

(UPBEAT MUSIC PLAYING)

(EXHALES SHARPLY)

(PANTS)

(CHUCKLES, EXHALES HEAVILY)

(SOFT MUSIC PLAYING)

(CAR HORN HONKS)

MALE VOICE: Hello, there!

Hello.

MALE VOICE: That yours?

Sergeant Joe Marks, jump in. I’ll run you back to the mess.

Thank you. It’s good to be in the warm.

I expect it is.

(PENSIVE MUSIC PLAYING)

Flying Officer, Freddie Hook.

That was close.

You were lucky in this fog.

Yeah. My radio and electrics failed out of the North Sea.

I was guided in by another aircraft.

Surprised you managed to find the place.

What do you mean?

We’re not an operational station, haven’t been for years.

We’re just a storage depot now.

So this isn’t RAF Miriam St. George?

That’s another ten miles away, sir.

This is RAF Minton.

Minton?

I’ve never heard of it.

I saw your runway lights… and… Well, looks like I’ve plonked my Vampire down onto the wrong airfield.

Sorry.

Don’t mention it, sir.

You got the short straw, having to spend your Christmas on duty here?

JOE: (CHUCKLES) Yes.

Let’s get you settled.

This will warm you up, sir.

Thank you.

(SOFT MUSIC PLAYING)

Come on, Lizzie.

(PHONE LINE TRILLING)

FREDDIE: Come on, Lizzie. Pick up.

(PEOPLE SINGING INDISTINCTLY)

(PENSIVE MUSIC PLAYING)

(JOE GRUNTS)

Did you get through?

Strange.

Well, it is Christmas.

FREDDIE: You’ve been here long, Joe?

Since the beginning of the war when the station opened.

It’s different then.

Hmm.

Back then, it was full of young pilots flying mission after mission, even after their nerves were in shreds.

Did you have family in the Force, sir?

Yeah. Yeah, my father.

I’m sorry.

Missing in action over Germany.

So you followed him into the Force?

Yeah, yeah, I did.

Not right away, though. National Service.

Well, thank God there’s no war on.

Let’s hope we don’t have to go through anything like that again.

May I, sir?

Thank you.

(SUSPENSEFUL MUSIC PLAYING)

Who’s the pilot, Joe?

Oh, that’s Mr. John Kavanagh.

He was here during the war, sir.

Kavanagh?

Yes.

Often used to sit at that table where you were sitting.

A Canadian pilot.

What squadron was that, Joe?

Pathfinders. Mosquitoes they flew.

I believe Mr. Kavanagh was the best of them all.

But then, I’m biased. (CHUCKLES) I was his batman.

Johnny Kavanagh.

When the squadron returned after dropping marker flares over targets in Germany, he’d have his Mosquito refueled. Take off again. Alone.

He used to guide them back here.

Yes.

He used to go out over the North Sea… looking for a crippled plane, sometimes in fog so dense you couldn’t see your hand.

Just like tonight.

Well, he brought me home tonight.

Oh, I don’t think so, sir.

Mr. Johnny went out on his last patrol Christmas Eve, 1943.

Just 14 years ago tonight.

He never came back.

He went down with his plane… somewhere out there over the North Sea.

Well, good night, sir.

Oh, and uh… (CHUCKLES) Happy Christmas.

(PLANE ENGINE WHIRRING)

(MUSIC CONCLUDES)

DRIVER: We saw you on the radar looked like you were heading for Miriam.

Then you just vanished.

We lost you around about here.

Why did you…

I was led down.

Old guy here turned on the runway lights and saved my life.

This place shut down years ago at the end of the war.

Uh, it’s been abandoned ever since.

(MILD TEMPO MUSIC PLAYING)

Come on.

Let’s get you back to civilization, sir.

Home for Christmas.

CONTROLLER: (OVER RADIO) Crocodile Lima, Monkey Delta.

Can you read me? Do you require assistance?

SKIPPER: Monkey, Delta, Crocodile Lima, Skipper here.

Flank damage and hit from pursuing enemy fighter.

Instrument failure. Require ground assisted approach.

CONTROLLER: (OVER RADIO) Crocodile Lima, Monkey Delta, it’s time to follow me down. I’m taking you home.

(MUSIC CONCLUDES)

(CAROL OF THE BELLS PLAYING)

(VOCALIZING CONCLUDES)

(MILD TEMPO MUSIC PLAYING)

(MUSIC CONCLUDES)

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