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Ricardo Barberini
Mira Nair
Cast: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, Joe Anderson, Cherry Jones






In the 1930’s long before any one of us was born, women were still treated as second-class citizens.  In US, the women got the right to vote in 1920 but they were still relegated to the kitchen and the nursery.  A few dedicated and courageous women such as Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt managed to climb out of obscurity by their deeds and action.  The road to the top was tortuous and there were many obstacles.  The battle for equality did not end then and even exists to this day.

This movie directed by Mira Nair is based on the life and the tragic death of Amelia Earhart, who dedicated her life to flying and championing the cause of women by example. The movie opens with a shot of Amelia boarding her Lockheed Electra in Florida on June 1, 1937 at the start of her final journey around the world.

Through a series of flashbacks, we learn how Amelia (Hillary Swank) started her career as a young flyer (aviatrix in the 1930’s vernacular) and met George Putnam (Richard Gere) who was a publisher.   She was lucky enough to be given the chance of a lifetime to fly the Atlantic as the first woman passenger/log keeper.  In a world where women were still treated as chattel, this was remarkable.  Using her newfound fame, Amelia used this opportunity to set flying records and encourage women to take their rightful place in the new field of aviation.  During the next decade, she broke many records and eventually embarked on her lifelong ambition of circumnavigating the earth from West to East.  The director and the writers have tried to spice up her life by adding an extra marital love affair to the story line.  They have also ignored the fact that George Putman had two sons from a previous marriage who were very close to their new stepmother.   Amelia Earhart was not the best woman flyer of her time nor was she the most experienced. However, what she lacked in experience she more than made up for by drive and determination.

While Amelia, as portrayed in this movie, comes across as a kindhearted if somewhat cool woman, the real Amelia was much more than that.  She was truly an amazing person.  Some facts about her life.
. She valued friendship above anything else. During the first transcontinental Derby, she lost her chance of being the first because she delayed taking off after seeing her friend and competitor, Ruth Nichols, crash. She stopped her plane, got out and dragged Ruth out of the crashed plane.   Only after Ruth was safe, did Amelia take off.  Still she came in third!
. She volunteered as a nurse’s aid after World War I and was afflicted with Spanish Flu for her generosity of spirit.  She spent months in a hospital and developed a sinus problem that caused agonizing headaches for the rest of her life.
. She was a free soul.  She lived in so-called sin with George Putnam before finally agreeing to marry him. 

I have never been a fan of Hillary Swank.  However, as Amelia, she is in her true realm.  She is wiry and tall and somewhat toothy like the real Amelia.  Above all the portrayal is quite close to what we would expect Amelia to be from reading books, articles and watching movies about her.  I found Hillary’s performance during the last scenes of the movie quite captivating.   It is near the end.  She is so close to Howland Island, where she is supposed to land for refueling, but yet she is so far away.  Hillary and the director really manage to bring it all together in the final 20 minutes of this movie despite some earlier missteps in previous parts of the film. In the concluding scenes, the agonizing expression of Hillary’s face as she realizes that she is in her final moments and faces imminent death in the watery grave is riveting.  Amelia knows that she is about to die and yet she does not want to.  Hers is not a fatalistic outlook on life like some crazed knight of medieval times.  Death is real and the ocean is vast.  She is scared but is accepting her fate.

Before seeing Amelia, I had wondered if a movie about a female hero based on two books written by two women and directed by another, would be a vehicle for some kind of feminist agenda to serve their own purposes.  In fact, the treatment was quite evenhanded. 

One must remember that this is almost a docudrama so; it is not loaded with silly action packed sequences, monsters, zombies or other weird special effects.  The movie should be judged as it stands.