December 21, 2014

An open letter to Robert Zemeckis and the makers of Flight

Robert, why? I’m a huge fan of yours. I had such high hopes that finally a skilled director might make an aviation film that was realistic, believable, as well as entertaining. You did such a good job with the crash scene in Cast Away. So how could you make a film with so many cringe inducing inaccuracies? You got so many things wrong in the first thirty minutes of this film I couldn’t keep count.

Here are just a few, starting with some minor annoyances that maybe only us in the profession might notice. Like having Denzel doing a walk around in the rain while the FO is sitting all warm in comfy in the cockpit not doing much of anything. Or how about showing the exterior of one airplane and then putting the pilots in the cockpit of some other imaginary airplane. Or how about having Denzel exiting the cockpit without any security precautions, like blocking the isle or having a flight attendant entering the cockpit as required by the FARs?

Then we get the nonsense about leveling off and increasing speed to get out of rough weather. Next we have the dramatic dive. Okay, so let me see if I have this right. The plane is unexpectedly in a rapid dive, so the first thing I’m going to do is call the flight attendant into the cockpit because the G forces are too great for my first officer to do anything but scream. Now I’m in the dive and an engine for some unexplained reason bursts into flame. What are the chances of that happening? But wait. For this to work we need both engines to catch 0n fire. So now we have two engines on fire. Denzel, who heroically is flying the plane, has the first officer pull both fire handles. Nice job, Denzel. Good call. The only problem is later when you ask Margaret to give it full power, there isn’t any power, or at least in the real world there isn’t. Pulling the fire handle cuts fuel to the engine. But this is Hollywood where no one cares about getting it right. Then you have Margaret pull some mysterious lever to give our hero “manual” control of the plane. What? Are you kidding me?

Still not dramatic enough for Mr. Zemeckis. Let’s have him dump some fuel. That’s pretty cool. Why is he dumping fuel in the middle of a dive in an airplane that can’t dump fuel? Who cares. It’s cool. It gives Denzel something else to deal with. Next we’re going to have him invert the plane. Why? Because that’s even cooler. There was actually a valid reason for him doing this, but no one took the time to explain it at any time in the film.

You were given some thirty million or more to make this film. You couldn’t spend a couple thousand to hire a script consultant? You could have made a much better movie with the same themes, the same drama, but it would have been accurate. It would have been believable. So the next time you get a script about aviation from a writer who has zero experience with the topic, give me a call. Better yet. I have plenty of good ideas for scripts. I have two completed scripts sitting on my computer. Please, call. I can’t take another Hollywood aviation film like this.

Comments

  1. Glad to see someone take Hollywood to task. As a writer (Matt Davis Mystery Series), I constantly struggle with research in an effort to always get it right. Occasionally I will have a reader contact me or comment online about some minor annoyance that could be open to debate. However, it sickens me to see movie after movie come out of LaLaLand with very little attention to detail. Admittedly, with no experience in the aviation industry, a lot of the things you cite here slipped by me. However, I DID notice the attempt to obtain power from engines that had previously been shut down, and the call to the flight attendant when the co-pilot couldn’t find his behind with his hand. Thanks for taking the time to post your comments. Perhaps someone in the movie industry might take notice, and just maybe the next movie that features aviation will be more attentive to detail.

    • Gentlemen, please! 99% of movies have nothing to do with reality. I know it’s insulting, and sickening, but we just have to accept mass consumption, commercial, cookie cutter shit for what it is. In Armageddon, Michael Bay shows open flames in space and even says in his Director Commentary that he knows you can’t have fire without oxygen, but it looks cool, so he put it in. Lockout was the pinnacle of stupidity, in my opinion, when they show a couple jump off a space station in orbit and free fall back to earth. TV show Battle Star Galactica has space fighters that have wings, barometric altimeters, and pilots who wear parachutes in space (cause you just never know, right?) All this stuff is so stupid, it’s insulting that they try to feed it to us, but the only thing we can do is vote with our wallets and not watch those movies (or any movies it would seem). Truth be told, I went to see Flight for Denzel’s performance, not a realistic depiction of modern aviation, which I kind of expected to be bullshit.

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