Screenwriters: Ron Bass, Anna Hamilton Phelan
Starring: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, Joe Anderson, Mia Wasikowska, Cherry Jones, William Cuddy
Running Time: 111 mins
Following an appearance in the recent Night At The Museum sequel (where she was gamely portrayed by Amy Adams), Amelia Earhart is embodied by Hilary Swank in this week's more serious big screen take on the pioneering aviatrix. In Swank, director Mira Nair has the perfect actress to build Amelia around (the resemblance is clear), but the movie is so dragging and dull that it's a squandered opportunity.
Amelia is far too concerned with setting itself up as scandal-free and worthy awards bait that it collapses through sheer lack of ambition and imagination. There's a heavyweight Oscar-winning lead and a strong supporting cast, a love triangle, a tragic end, a score that swells to hit emotional turns... even a flashback to the protagonist running their hand through a wheat field (a tactic popularised by Gladiator). It all amounts to a stale, static drama that doesn't have the scope or style to fill out the cinema screen.
Ron Bass and Anna Hamilton Phelan's script weaves together Amelia's love life, her quest to conquer the skies and genuine newsreel footage for this painfully tame biographical film. She becomes the first woman to fly the Atlantic in 1928 with Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon, then successfully crosses it solo four years later, landing in Northern Ireland to be greeted by an awestruck farmer and his sheep. Concurrently, her marriage to publisher and publicist George Putnam (Gere) is put to the test by an affair with Ewan McGregor's Gene Vidal (father of Gore), before her ambitions outreach her flying talent and she disappears over the Pacific trying to circle the globe with navigator Fred Noonan (Ecclestone).
The movie does occasionally flirt with interesting ideas, notably its exploration of celebrity and how Amelia has to compromise herself to branding and merchandise in order to raise cash for her air adventures. Yet this - and many of the other story threads of interest - are nipped in the bud. Amelia's infidelity barely provokes a reaction from Putnam, while her connection with Gene hardly registers on the radar. The appearance of his son Gore (Cuddy), who would go on to make literary waves, feels like a cheap gimmick, as does a fleeting cameo by Eleanor Roosevelt (Jones). Also disappointing is the lack of new insight into her mysterious disappearance. We're informed prior to the end credits that Amelia, Fred and their plane the Electra was never found, but the execution of the fateful final flight is limp and a let down.
Perhaps chief among Amelia's problems, though, is its inability to present any kind of exhilaration or danger in flight. Earhart's yearning for freedom, to be "a vagabond of the sky", never feels true when the aerial sequences are completely devoid of inspiration (Martin Scorsese's The Aviator showed how to do this with dizzying results). A lukewarm effort, Amelia stutters along the runway and never manages to leave the ground.
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