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Final Gravity

(Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Richard Donat, Christopher Eccleston, et al / DVD / PG / (2009) 2010 / 20th Century Fox)

Overview: Two-time Academy AwardŽ Winner Hilary Swank delivers an unforgettable performance as Amelia Earhart, the legendary American aviatrix who boldly flew into the annals of history.

DVD Verdict: With Earhart's doomed last flight in 1937 providing the narrative frame, the story skims the basic facts of her life with the main emphasis placed on her last decade beginning with her first transatlantic flight in 1928. This flashback technique necessitates the constant superimposition of titles detailing locales and years since there is little else that would give us a clue where we are in the tired soap opera being told. In episodic form, Earhart's ambition is shown with little personal drive onscreen, and her allegedly adulterous affair with Gene Vidal, an aeronautics engineer for the FDR administration, comes across more clinical than passionate.

Also given short shrift is her complicated marriage to publishing tycoon George Putnam, whose previous success in chronicling Charles Lindbergh's life story drove him to make Earhart a merchandising bonanza. Beyond that, we simply see Earhart breaking all distance records for flying, and the story eventually catches up with her final flight.

Even this climactic episode, played out in so many previous incarnations, lacks the propulsive conviction to save the movie from itself. See Yves Simoneau's 1994 Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight (with Diane Keaton as Earhart) for a much more affecting recreation. Looking and even sounding a bit like a toothsome, mid-1930's reincarnation of Katharine Hepburn, Hilary Swank would seem to be the ideal embodiment of Earhart given her androgynous look and determined personality.

However, she is left stranded by a script that gives her little to work with beyond providing a glib, glossy sheen to an oversimplified characterization. It's a shame given the actress's innate talent for bringing heart to misunderstood characters, but neither she nor Nair can come close to revealing Earhart's soul. As Vidal, Ewan McGregor makes little impression with his opaque character overshadowed by his precocious son who would grow up to become author Gore Vidal.

Richard Gere fares a little better as Putnam as he reverts back to the pained husband he played in Adrian Lyne's Unfaithful when the affair is exposed. Unfortunately, the love story between Putnam and Earhart never takes hold over the story being told. Of the supporting cast, only Christopher Eccleston makes an impression as navigator Fred Noonan, who is constantly battling his alcoholism on that fateful flight. Cherry Jones has a rather incongruous cameo as a dotty Eleanor Roosevelt to whom Earhart allows to take the controls of a nocturnal flight over Washington D.C.

There is no commentary track accompanying the 2010 DVD, but there is, of course, the standard making-of feature, which runs 23 minutes. In addition, there are ten deleted scenes, none of which would have provided much value to the final product despite the intriguing casting of Virginia Madsen as Putnam's first wife. There are other shorter featurettes focused on Earhart herself, her plane, and the meticulous recreation of the period aircraft, plus seven vintage newsreels. [EU] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with Special Features of:

Deleted Scenes
Additional Around the World Flying Montage
Making Amelia
The Power of Amelia Earhart
Movietone News Reels