Part harrowing human interest woven in the feel of a political thriller, Prime Video’s documentary Flight/Risk is as heart-rending as it is hair-raising.
Amazon Prime Video documentary Flight/Risk was released on September 9, 2022.
I was quite taken with a quickly forgotten film called Worth, a Netflix drama starring Michael Keaton about lawyers trying to put a value on life after the 9/11 tragedies. That film focuses on lawyers as the conduits for the government and airlines working on a settlement, one that will not cripple the airline industry and force the economy into a crisis. By contrast, in Prime Video’s fascinating and heart-rending documentary, Flight/Risk follows the tragedy of two fatal crashes on Boeing Max planes from 2018 to 2019.
The contrast here is that the film looks at the perspectives of the victims’ legal team while folding in the Pulitzer prize-winning story behind the tragedy and the whistleblowers who sacrificed their futures, despite knowing not only one of the world’s largest companies would be against them. However, a government agency decided to defend itself instead of the people they are sworn to protect.
Seattle Times journalist Dominic Gates’s report is chilling at the look over big corporations’ marketing, and the bottom line dictates safety. For instance, Gates paints a picture of how a company like Boeing markets its technology as innovative. Yet, to cut costs, they kept the same Max model. Then, in laymen’s terms, they put a new engine in the same plane design, which caused catastrophic issues. His investigation found education did not consist of flight simulator training but two hours on an iPad. If they do, they will pay them 1,000,000 dollars per plane. Gates then presents jaw-dropping evidence. One where they persuaded Lion Air, responsible for one of the crashes, not to offer their pilot’s simulator training. “I just Jedi mind tricked these fools,” is a quote from a Boeing executive that he found in plain sight.
What Flight/Risk does well is focus the camera on families’ stories. This produces images of agonizing loved ones talking about their family members; what made them special to them, unique to the world, and how they came to an abrupt fate. One is a daughter talking about losing her father on an Ethiopian flight. Two days before, the relatives were told the remaining unidentified body parts of the victims would be buried at the crash site. Can you imagine? The company did not fly the family over. Just a quick notification. As she says to the reporter, she missed her father’s funeral.
Film directors Karim Amer and Omar Mullick tell dozens of stories like this with raw emotion. A film like Netflix’s Worth examines a group of lawyers who started with good intentions and later realized they lost their humanity and found an unconscious bias they did not know they had. These lawyers are being fueled by it. They are fighting for the victims, many being “lowballed” with settlements because of the color of their skin. By adding this socioeconomic element to these stories you are left enraged and wondering why someone born with a large amount of melanin in their skin is literally worth less than someone who was not.
The filmmakers hold our interest by capturing the human side of the matter. We did not expect Flight/Risk to play out as a suspenseful political thriller that smartly presents legal arguments, entanglements, and political views as they are, with archival footage and live recreation of the hearings. All combined with Gates walking us through a labyrinth of damning research by Boeing and the FAA, that is hair-raising.
Flight/Risk has a damning indignation demands to be seen and heard.
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