Movie Details
Recommendation

Amelia (2009)

 
 
 

The Spirit of Amelia Earhart

Who wants a life imprisoned in safety? - Amelia

Hilary Swank and Richard Gere in Amelia (2009)

Prior to watching "Amelia" I really only knew two things about Amelia Earhart and they were that she was a pioneering woman pilot and that she went missing when trying to fly around the world. Now to me those are two important points that she was a pioneering flier and obviously her flight hit trouble causing her and her navigator to presumably crash and die. But then for me these two important elements almost seem to take a back seat when it comes to the biopic "Amelia" which seems as much if not more interested in Amelia's life away from flying than it does with her flying exploits. Now it is interesting to learn how she resented the publicity work, had an affair whilst being married and so on but for me the balance is wrong and as her flying exploits end up quite dull it makes "Amelia" a disappointing movie.

Ever since she was a child Amelia (Hilary Swank - P.S. I Love You) was fascinated with flying and it is this fascination which leads to her being the first woman to pilot a plane across the Atlantic. It also led to her meeting publicist George Putnam (Richard Gere - Hachi: A Dog's Tale) who she ended up marrying. But her passion for flying also lead to at the age of 39 trying to circumnavigate the globe, a flight which ended in disaster with Amelia and her navigator Fred Noonan (Christopher Eccleston - 28 Days Later) mysteriously going missing when their radio failed as they flew across the Pacific looking for the tiny Howland Island to land on.

Christopher Eccleston and Hilary Swank in Amelia (2009)

Now it has to be said that it takes a little time to work out what is going on in "Amelia" because it jumps all over the place. One moment we have Amelia flying a plane, next it's back to her youth, then she is a passenger on a transatlantic flight, then back again and to be honest whilst not confusing ends up feeling a little messy. By halfway point it does all make sense and you have worked out the timeline as it jumps around but it really could have been made a lot simpler and easier to follow.

Aside from that "Amelia" is a biopic which is as interested with what Amelia did in-between flying as it is with her daring flights. And so we watch the romance blossom between her and her publicist George Putnam who she would go on to marry and then there is also the affair that she had with the handsome and athletic Gene Vidal. All of which is interesting as is the way it shows that Amelia wasn't totally happy with doing all the publicity and lectures which George lined up for her. But at the same time it almost seems to float along with very little drama even when it comes to the marital issues.

And that is also a criticism I have over the various flying exploits which are on show as it covers the first flight as a female passenger across the Atlantic, her solo flight and then the attempt to fly around the world. It almost feels like director Mira Nair didn't want to make "Amelia" all about the troubled flights and so the danger ends up being underplayed. When as a passenger on the flight across the Atlantic and the plane gets into difficulties you don't get a real sense of the danger. And the same can be said of the final flight where it ends up feeling a little dull and artsy. Even the failed first attempt which saw her plane fail to take off lacks the big sensational drama which would have made it an eye catching moving. And so it is sort of disappointing because whilst all of it may be authentic and beautifully shot it lacks the excitement which you expect from such a story is missing.

As for the acting well it's quite hard to judge because on one hand Hilary Swank does a decent enough job of looking like Amelia Earhart but never having heard the real Amelia speak it almost feels like Swank is delivering an imitation of Katharine Hepburn, right through to her actual fighting, independent spirit. Maybe the real Earhart was like this, but without that knowledge it feels a little strange. And to be honest Swank is the best thing about "Amelia" as whilst Richard Gere does a solid job as George Putnam and Ewan McGregor as equally as solid as Gene Vidal they are not memorable performances. And to be honest part of the reason is that you don't feel any chemistry between the three of them when it comes to the romantic side and again it feels like director Mira Nair is trying to keep things real rather than sensationalizing any of it.

What this all boils down to is that whilst "Amelia" is an interesting look at the life of pioneering flier Amelia Earhart I would struggle to say it's entertaining. The balance of it seems off and so her flying exploits almost take a backseat to her personal life and when it does deliver those legendary flights the danger seems to be underplayed. And so sadly it never feels like "Amelia" gets going, failing to deliver the excitement that you expect from someone who risked their life on daring and troubled flights.

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