Friday, February 19, 2010

My top 5 airplane movies

For one reason or the other airplane movies attract me a lot, and many other movie lovers. It is easy get into cheap flights to travel to any place nowadays, but rather difficult or impossible to witness the situations in shown airplane movies, and some of these are based on real life stories.

I like Pearl Harbor (2001), directed by Michael Bay, a story retold about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor Naval Base and the subsequent Doolittle Raid. The war-thriller recreates the Pearl Harbor episode grippingly. As the story ends, two men of the Doolittle Raid succeed in their bombing mission but their plane run out of gas; crash-land into a rice field where Japanese soldiers run towards them. Just as Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) is about to be shot by the Japanese, Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett) jumps in front of Rafe and takes a shower of bullets. Rafe holds the dying Danny and tells him that he can't die because he is ‘going to be a daddy’. But Danny asks Rafe should be with Evelyn (Kate Beckinsale) and become the father of her child. The scene is gripping and remains fresh in memory, much more than the fighter planes and war sequences.

The ultimate comedy film ‘Airplane!’ (1980) directed and written by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker, is a film that I like a lot not just because it is an airplane (TWA Boeing 707) film but the funny comic sequences. It is rather a spoof of the disaster film genre. Rated as one of the best comedy films ever, it re-wrote the rule for comedy films of the future. The plot is spun around an ex-fighter pilot, Ted Striker, who developed a mortal fear of flying, and attempts to regain the love of his life, Elaine, a stewardess. He buys a ticket on a flight she is serving on. After dinner is served, many people fall ill due to food poisoning, including the pilots, leaving no one aboard to fly the plane. Elaine contacts the Chicago control tower for help, but she is instructed to activate the plane's autopilot, which will get them to Chicago but will not be able to land the plane. Elaine realizes that Striker is their only hope. Though hesitant to pilot the plane, finally, he lands the plane at the airport and his courage wins Elaine's love for him.

In the sequel to ‘Airplane!’, ‘Airplane II: The Sequel’ (1980), Elaine has long-since left Ted Striker (Robert Hays) and is now engaged to Simon Kurtz (Chad Everett), one of the flight crew of the lunar shuttle Mayflower One. Striker, now in an insane asylum, reads of the upcoming Lunar Shuttle launch and escapes from the asylum and buys a ticket for the flight. During the flight, the lunar shuttle suffers a short circuit and the computer develops a mind of its own, sending the ship toward the sun. Kurtz abandons Elaine and leaves in the only escape pod. Once again Striker is called upon to save the shuttle, and as usual he saves the shuttle and safely lands on the moon that is being colonized. Also, Striker and Elaine fall back in love and are married at the end. However, the sequel is no match to the original.

Airport (1970) directed by George Seaton, focuses on an airport manager trying to keep his airport open during a snowstorm, while a suicidal bomber plots to blow up a Boeing 707 in flight. Demolition expert Guerrero (Van Heflin), unlucky and mentally ill, purchases a life insurance policy with the intent to commit suicide by blowing up a Boeing 707 using a self-made bomb hidden inside an attaché case while in flight over the Atlantic Ocean. The detonation causes decompression and Guerrero is sucked out of the plane. Chief stewardess Gwen (Jacqueline Bisset), pregnant with Demerest's (Dean Martin’s) child, is seriously injured in the blast. The plane returns to blizzard-hit Chicago to attempt an emergency landing. Many years later, the only one Boeing 707 used in the filming, a 707-349C, while flying for Transbrasil with registration PT-TCS, crashed on March 21, 1989 while making a high speed approach at runway 09R of São Paulo's Guarulhos International Airport after departure from Manaus Eduardo Gomes International Airport.

‘Airport 1975’ (1974), sequel to ‘Airport’, set of a craze for disaster films during the 1970s. The story is about a Boeing 747-100 (Flight 409) and a private Beechcraft Baron used by Scott Freeman (Dana Andrews), a New Mexican businessman, with Los Angeles reporting zero visibility. So both flights are diverted to Salt Lake City airport. Air traffic control assigns the jumbo to enter the pattern first, followed by the Beechcraft. As 409 is making its final approach, First Officer Urias (Roy Thinnes) feels a vibration on a panel and rises to check it out. Freeman, who missed his sales meeting, suffers a massive heart attack and the Baron falls out of the pattern and descends into the approach of 409. The Beechcraft impacts the flight deck just above the co-pilot seat. Urias is blown from the cockpit and the consequences of the midair near-collision and rescue efforts follow. This sequel was a huge box office success and it was followed by Airport '77 and the fourth sequel The Concorde...Airport '79’. The only one actor who appeared in all the four "Airport" films was George Kennedy (see photo) in recurring role of Joe Patroni, rising from a chief mechanic in Airport to a Vice President of Operations in Airport 1975, a consultant in Airport '77, and an experienced pilot in The Concorde...Airport '79.

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