|This film was an official selection at the Phoenix Film Festival in 2014. Here's an index to my reviews of 2014 films.|
But, while his last bombing run constituted his final flight for an amazing 65 years, this 91 year old pilot is given a new final flight, albeit as a passenger in the back of a two seater based at Deer Valley Airport outside Phoenix, AZ. Before that happens, David Jorgensen, who may have been the entire crew on this film, sets us up for it. He switches us between a variety of different angles to flying, thus keeping a focus on the activity itself rather than any one particular aspect of it. We hear from modern day civilian pilots based out of Deer Valley, like Tom Johnson and Mike Pfleger of the Warbird Division of the Experimental Aircraft Association, who have picked up a formation flying bug from the military folk and explain how it works. We hear from Fowler, talking about his war experience and thus bringing a much darker aspect to flying. We see a lot of supporting material: personal photos, maps and stock footage obtained from the National Archives. And eventually we get to where we've always been going: Fowler back in the sky.
Those words also feel highly appropriate as the film takes flight and we see something of why they were written. The choice to include at this point a clichéd song like Walking in the Air could easily have broken the film, especially as it's Stephen van Dyck singing rather than Aled Jones, but it works. It's appropriate and it takes away all the words, memories and explanations, replacing them entirely with visuals. All the footage here is capable, as we see landscapes and skyscapes and follow a set of planes dancing through them. Frankly though, all the editing between shots at this point could have been safely ditched to show only the footage of Fowler taken with a rear-facing camera. This entire picture can be boiled down as far as the expressions on his face as the plane in which he's riding rolls, spins and glides and he touches the face of God one more time on his new final flight. As strong as this film is, showing anything but that for the last five minutes still feels like a missed opportunity as, really, it's all that matters.