It’s incredible to consider that just 70 years ago, the idea of piloting a plane around the world was considered “impossible”. Thanks to gutsy 1930s aviation pioneers like Amelia Earhart, air travel gripped the public’s attention –and its heart. Dubbed ‘Lady Lindy’ by the American press (after her uncanny resemblance to fellow aviator Charles Lindbergh), Kansas-born Earhart was the first woman to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for being the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic. And at the age of 39, she began her ill-fated attempt to circumnavigate the globe…
Amelia’s director, Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay, Monsoon Wedding…) is, like her heroine, an accomplished and experienced helmswoman, but the real stars of the movie are the aeroplanes. A rare Lockheed Electra was flown from the south of France to South Africa where much of the superb action/aerial shots were filmed. If you’ve ever been in a small aircraft, or had the chance to fly one, you’ll know what I mean. It’s another world – literally electrifying.
Wish I could say the same about the performances of the film’s human stars. More ‘Thunderbirds are Go’ than passionate connectivity here – and some of the cockpit scenes look very stagy. Sticky back plastic anyone? Co-exec producer Hilary Swank (Amelia) does the accent (think Katharine Hepburn) fairly well and she certainly looks the part… but I just can’t connect with her characterisation. Ditto Richard Gere who plays her publicist/publisher/husband George Putnam – the relationship between them feels very restrained and lacking in passion. Perhaps it was. Amelia was dead against marriage and had an independent spirit way ahead of her time. A spark of sensuality could have been injected into the film with Amelia’s affair with dashing Gene Vidal (father of Gore) played by Ewan McGregor, but this is never really explored.
But whatever you think of the movie, it’s certainly a great tribute to a remarkable woman ahead of her time. A woman who inspired so many others to take up flying and to live their dreams. Amelia’s second attempt at the round-the-world record came to a fateful end on July 2 1937, when she lost radio contact and presumably ditched somewhere near Howard Island in the central South Pacific. A life cut tragically short, but as Nair herself says: “What is really important to me is a sense of humour and a mischief about life. Life is just too boring otherwise.” Amelia Earheart would no doubt agree.
Released on 8th March.