Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Charlie Victor Romeo

Starkly adapted stage play is more harrowing for its simplicity.

Jan 28, 2014

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1393298-Charlie_Victor_Romeo_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Charlie Victor Romeo is a harrowing collection of worst-case flight scenarios reconstructed from transcripts of actual "black box" cockpit recordings. Its unusual format will present distribution challenges, but broad awareness of the theatrical source material will help niche bookings, and word of mouth should be strong.

Though the play was filmed stereoscopically, with sparse cockpit sets against an inky black void, hardware problems at Sundance resulted in a 2D screening. It's hard to see what 3D would add, given that the cockpit sets are only a few feet deep; directors Robert Berger and Karlyn Michelson have already done enough in their selection and variation of camera angles to provide a more visually involving experience than the stage could offer.

That experience is, to put it mildly, a nail-biter. Though the scenes don't always begin in extremis (in fact, one starts with a long flirtation between pilots and a flight attendant), they all come to a point where even seasoned aviation vets face panic. In a case or two, shockingly little time elapses between the start of malfunction and the plane's crash. In others, the emergency period is so long you have to remind yourself to breathe: The final scene, of a 1989 flight over Iowa, observes a plane that can no longer turn left, and must try to navigate to an emergency destination making only right turns.

Another chapter finds a cockpit in which all the instruments have ceased to function. Not knowing how fast they're going or how high they're flying, the pilots get status reports by radar while desperately searching through flight manuals for a fix. Their dialogue, in which words like "speed" are repeated endlessly for reasons we don't understand, becomes a kind of terrifying, avant-garde found poetry.

If 3D is an unneeded gimmick here, seeing the filmed version on a big screen seems a must. Not just because a theatre's sound system recreates the continuous rumble of jet engines in a way that puts us in the plane—and makes us sickeningly aware of turbulence and other disruptions. But because the ritualized presentation of these disasters—six of them play out in real time, with slides at the end of each informing us of the number of fatalities—adds up to a kind of unsettling spiritual experience, a communion with the dead that demands the quiet participation of a group: We who are alive honor your deaths by observing what you could not see—the fear and heroic struggle of men and women behind the cockpit door, doing all they could to bring you home safely.

The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: Charlie Victor Romeo

Starkly adapted stage play is more harrowing for its simplicity.

Jan 28, 2014

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1393298-Charlie_Victor_Romeo_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Charlie Victor Romeo is a harrowing collection of worst-case flight scenarios reconstructed from transcripts of actual "black box" cockpit recordings. Its unusual format will present distribution challenges, but broad awareness of the theatrical source material will help niche bookings, and word of mouth should be strong.

Though the play was filmed stereoscopically, with sparse cockpit sets against an inky black void, hardware problems at Sundance resulted in a 2D screening. It's hard to see what 3D would add, given that the cockpit sets are only a few feet deep; directors Robert Berger and Karlyn Michelson have already done enough in their selection and variation of camera angles to provide a more visually involving experience than the stage could offer.

That experience is, to put it mildly, a nail-biter. Though the scenes don't always begin in extremis (in fact, one starts with a long flirtation between pilots and a flight attendant), they all come to a point where even seasoned aviation vets face panic. In a case or two, shockingly little time elapses between the start of malfunction and the plane's crash. In others, the emergency period is so long you have to remind yourself to breathe: The final scene, of a 1989 flight over Iowa, observes a plane that can no longer turn left, and must try to navigate to an emergency destination making only right turns.

Another chapter finds a cockpit in which all the instruments have ceased to function. Not knowing how fast they're going or how high they're flying, the pilots get status reports by radar while desperately searching through flight manuals for a fix. Their dialogue, in which words like "speed" are repeated endlessly for reasons we don't understand, becomes a kind of terrifying, avant-garde found poetry.

If 3D is an unneeded gimmick here, seeing the filmed version on a big screen seems a must. Not just because a theatre's sound system recreates the continuous rumble of jet engines in a way that puts us in the plane—and makes us sickeningly aware of turbulence and other disruptions. But because the ritualized presentation of these disasters—six of them play out in real time, with slides at the end of each informing us of the number of fatalities—adds up to a kind of unsettling spiritual experience, a communion with the dead that demands the quiet participation of a group: We who are alive honor your deaths by observing what you could not see—the fear and heroic struggle of men and women behind the cockpit door, doing all they could to bring you home safely.

The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

The Congress
Film Review: The Congress

Part live-action, part cornea-searing animation, this cinematic overload is ambitious but ultimately fatigues as it plays with the intriguing notion of a fading Hollywood star selling rights so her cyberspace avatar can rise to superstardom and stay forever young in virtual reality. Flashy animation and cynical stabs at celebrity culture and movie-studio finagling keep things lively for a while. More »

The Last of Robin Hood
Film Review: The Last of Robin Hood

Serviceable vehicle for a salacious story. More »

Last Weekend
Film Review: Last Weekend

A sort of modern Chekhovian study of family tensions over a country weekend, this indie drama is very pretty to look at and at times disarming, but needed more punch. More »

The Notebook
Film Review: The Notebook

An aloof adaptation of Agota Kristof's best-seller that's technically impressive but precludes audience identification. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Film Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Neither significantly better nor worse than its predecessor, the belated Sin City sequel is more of a repeat, rather than a continuation, of the original. More »

If I Stay
Film Review: If I Stay

Delivers as promised. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here