The Arrow (1997)
The Rise and Fall of the Arrow
3 hours is a lot of time in my book to give up to watch a movie which I had no real knowledge of but when it came to "The Arrow", a Canadian two part mini-series which understandably can be watched as one long movie, I just had the feeling that it was going to capture my attention. And it did as this fictionalised account of what went on during the 1950s when Avro were commissioned to build the Avro Arrow supersonic jet interceptor but then just as they were close to completion were shut down is fascinating. It has pretty much everything you want from interesting characters to political skulduggery as well as the occasional moment of humour, the only thing missing is the directional style which would take it from being very good to excellent.
Now there is a lot which goes on in this 3 hour movie and I am not going to spend time telling you everything but split it in two and you have the first half which is the rise and the second half is the fall. What is surprising is that I have no real interest in planes but I found the first half fascinating as we see how the team of engineers and designers created the Avro Arrow, dealing with design obstacles in a way which are easy to follow. And much of that is down to the character of Jim Chamberlin played brilliantly by Aidan Devine as he has that touch of eccentric inventor about him which makes him amusing but he also has a way of demonstrating what he is saying which is easy to understand so when for example in the scene where he mentions the use of contours to control air flow and puts a glass coke bottle in a wind tunnel you get to see exactly what he is on about. It is not just Jim because all the characters draw us in to the construction of this revolutionary plane and that makes us part of the team and on their side which is important during the second half.
What we also see during the first half is the long term vision of manager Crawford Gordon who envisioned a wholly made Canadian plane which would be so perfect that despite costing a fortune in design would pay for itself once it was successful and other countries placed orders for planes and engines. But whilst we see all of this coming together under the charismatic leadership of Gordon who instilled confidence in the staff we also see the difficulties starting to present themselves as we see a new party take power in Government as well as Gordon's affair with another woman.
That brings me to the second half where we have the fall and it offers up several reasons why the Avro Arrow possibly ended up failing from Crawford being too focussed on the long term vision to him taking his eye off the ball when his personal life came crashing down. But the biggest suggestion is not only of treachery within government and between governments with the Canadian Prime Minister believing the American President when he said the future was in missiles but there is also suggestion of CIA meddling. There are other things including the Russian's launching Sputnik but it certainly suggests political incompetence and then a Prime Minister who tries to save face by destroying everything there was to do with the Avro Arrow.
These two halves work brilliantly together to draw you in to the creativity of the actual build and then the destruction during the second with lots of brilliant performances bringing it all to life with Sara Botsford doing a nice job of playing Kate, a composite character rather than one based on a real figure which is the case elsewhere. But the stand out performance for me comes from Christopher Plummer in a small part as Government official George Hees as Plummer is such a warm actor that watching him deliver a cold and conniving official who almost seems to relish destroying Avro is truly unsettling, an old fashioned boo hiss character.
What this all boils down to is that if you are in the mood for something which is substantial but not heavy then get yourself a copy of "The Arrow". It is a fascinating movie which draws you in and keeps you interested for its entire 3 hours even when it delivers an admittedly fictional ending.
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