Revelation Perth International Film Festival: Charlie Victor Romeo Review
By Julian Wright July 1, 2014
Charlie Victor Romeo 2013
Editor’s Notes: The following review is part of our coverage of the Revelation Perth International Film Festival. For more information visit revelationfilmfest.org and follow Revelation Perth on Twitter at @Rev_Film_Fest.
Going in to Charlie Victor Romeo knowing that there will not be a rosey resolution or a happy ending for the people depicted means an immediate feeling of unease in the pit of your stomach. Like any person with a fear of flying that steps onto a plane fighting anxiety and constantly wiping their sweaty palms on the leg of their jeans, sitting down for this documentary could be equally nerve shredding.
It is clear from the get-go: the six real-life airline emergencies re-enacted on film with the transcripts of the recorded audio taken from the Black Box on each flight have been included for a reason – it did not end well for all involved. Originally, a New York theatrical production, which began in 1999, the cameras (3D, no less) have been switched on to capture in real time the several technical issues and difficulties faced by those who were flying the six doomed aircrafts.
Going in to Charlie Victor Romeo knowing that there will not be a rosey resolution or a happy ending for the people depicted means an immediate feeling of unease in the pit of your stomach.
With just a handful of actors, often re-used in different scenarios, on a tiny, claustrophobic cockpit set, this is about maximum tension with minimum scope. We are given the slightest bit of context before and after each re-enactment. Once the screen goes black to indicate the end of each recording, text informs us of the crew and passengers’ fates.
Charlie Victor Romeo is an unusual production, like nothing I have seen before. It appears little has been done to adapt it from the stage production, except the 3D filming. Little camera movement is employed, but here, simplicity works in its favour. Anyone after in-depth Air Crash Investigation insight into the mechanics of these mid-air meltdowns may come away feeling disappointed. There are no elaborations on the text and the technical jargon (sometimes difficult to follow for a layman) spoken in the recordings – no diagrams, slideshows or graphs. But this is not about the mechanics.
While there is a sense of morbid fascination and voyeurism involved, (it is not exactly a pleasant experience knowing that these people may not make it out alive), to endure this blood chilling and harrowing exercise is rewarding. Charlie Victor Romeo serves as a tribute to the hard working men and women on each flight, and every other flight, who have the lives of hundreds in their hands every day.
We may not often get this much access to air disasters, but we also don’t often see the stressful, problem solving tasks these crew members have to face in order to keep all their passengers in the air and alive. Some succeed, and sadly, some do not but as these recordings serve as evidence, it is never for a lack of trying.
We are offered merely a snippet of these people’s professional lives, from the moment disaster strikes to their inevitable demise, but they feel rounded and familiar – people we could know.
It opens up a completely new level of appreciation for pilots and their crew. What is also extraordinary is that, with just a few minutes allowed with each scenario, we are able to get a sense of who these people are. We are offered merely a snippet of these people’s professional lives, from the moment disaster strikes to their inevitable demise, but they feel rounded and familiar – people we could know.
You could not script this kind of economic storytelling any better.There is camaraderie, flirty behaviour between pilot and steward in one scenario, the swearword-ridden frustration of a co-pilot in another. They are all doing their jobs but they are also heroic, and most importantly, human.
Charlie Victor Romeo serves as a tribute to the hard working men and women on each flight, and every other flight, who have the lives of hundreds in their hands every day.
I am a film reviewer and blogger from Perth, Western Australia. I fell in love with cinema at an early age when I saw my first horror film and realised the impact movies can have on a person. For me it was terrifying me into an almost catatonic state. Later it was how much they made me laugh and cry. I’ll watch pretty much anything and love indulging in a good film discussion.