Directed by Mira Nair
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 111 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: February 2, 2010
Review Date: February 2, 2010
They seem to have gotten many of the facts right, but they’ve left out the energy and spirit in Mira Nair’s Amelia. As a film biography of a famous twentieth century flyer, it can’t hold a candle to something like Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator. The movie is blessed with accomplished actors and good production values, but this is one of the more lifeless screen biographies brought to the movies in the last decade. What a disappointment for all concerned!
Amelia Earhart (Hilary Swank) wants to fly, to forge a path for the women of her era that makes the sky the limit. In order to do that, she enters into a marriage of loving convenience with George Putnam (Richard Gere) who does a masterful job publicizing Amelia’s exploits in the cockpit and arranging through his own talent for public relations one of the first examples of a media celebrity outside of Hollywood, a celebrity which allows her endorsements of products, her books, and her speaking engagements to finance her many daring flights including her 1937 attempt to navigate her airplane around the world, something no man or woman had yet done.
The Ron Bass-Anna Hamilton Phelan screenplay is based on two separate biographies of the famous aviatrix, but since the writers concentrate only on the last ten years of her life, we don’t ever seem to get a handle on Amelia’s startling nonconformity. We see some of it fitfully and through flashbacks since the framing device is Amelia’s 1937 attempt to fly around the equator: her amended marriage vows, a feeble suggestion that she may have entered into lesbian affairs earlier in her life, her willingness to place herself into a relationship with another man Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor) who shares a passion for flying with her and has a son Gore (William Cuddy) whom she adores. But the love triangle never catches fire (nothing in the film does really apart from one beautifully handled scene of mishap with Amelia’s first aborted attempt to fly around the world leaving from Honolulu), and instead it’s easier to just tick off the highlights of her life she accomplished once she gained fame in 1928 by being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic (though not as the pilot, as a passenger with the title of “commander”). Director Mira Nair who breathed some spirited life into Monsoon Wedding is certainly earthbound here never soaring into the clouds with the subject matter nor maximizing tension despite our foreknowledge of Amelia’s ultimate end. Period details are well handled (those planes of Amelia’s look like the real McCoys), but all the production design and wonderful wardrobe can’t give a lift to a scenario that’s frustratingly earthbound.
Though she bares a passing resemblance to the real Amelia, Hilary Swank’s Kansas accent comes and goes irritatingly, and there’s just no fire there. Richard Gere stands on the sidelines underplaying George Putnam while Ewan McGregor shows a bit more will but is saddled with a part that didn’t get adequate attention from the scenarists. The most genuine glimmer of spunk in the film is provided by Christopher Eccleston who plays Amelia’s navigator on that last fateful voyage with a real, daring sense of adventure and fun. Would that he could have pumped this enthusiasm into the entire production. Joe Anderson as the pilot of the plane when Amelia makes her first transatlantic crossing, Cherry Jones as a plumy Eleanor Roosevelt, and Mia Wasikowska as fellow aviatrix Elinor Smith have some effective, if brief, moments of interest.
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is delivered in a pleasing 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness tends to be erratic in this transfer as scenes seem to almost vacillate between sharp and soft continually. To set a dated tone to the cinematography, a slight brownish cast has been added thus making flesh tones sometimes a bit too brown. Black levels are good, but this is simply not a reference quality image. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is very impressive, the pans across and through the soundstage adding mightily to capturing the sound and feel of those vintage airplanes. The LFE channel gets a nice workout, too, with those engines revving close by or overhead. The Gabriel Yared music score has a nice spread through the sound field, too.
There are ten deleted scenes available for viewing. They may be watched individually or in one 14-minute grouping. They’re presented in 1080p.
“Making Amelia” is one of two EPK featurettes for the movie, this one concentrating on the producer and director singing the praises of the actors involved in the project. The leading actors (Swank, Gere, McGregor, and Eccleston) also weigh in on how well the film brought off its various effects. The 1080i featurette runs for 23 ¼ minutes.
“The Power of Amelia Earhart” is the other EPK featurette this time with producer Lydia Dean Pilcher and director Mira Nair praising the efforts of production designer Stephanie Carroll and costume designer Kasia Walicka Maimone making their work a true paean to the early feminism of their subject. This 1080i feature runs 10 ¾ minutes.
“Reconstructing Planes” is the most interesting featurette, 6 ¾ minutes delving into the recreations of the three Earhart planes that play major roles in the movie: the Friendship, the Vega, and the Electra. It’s presented in 1080i.
There are six Movietone newsreel excerpts all featuring information on Amelia Earhart’s exploits. They may be watched individually or in one 6 ¾-minute bunch. They’re in 480i.
The second disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie with instructions enclosed for installation on Mac and PC devices.
The disc offers trailers for Whip It and the AFI films.
3/5 (not an average)
Amelia does not really do its subject justice despite excellent actors and outstanding production design capturing the look and feel of the era. The Blu-ray looks and sounds well above average with a fair assortment of bonus material, but those with an interest in the movie or the lady in question would most likely do best by renting it.