'Amelia' - Reviews I

Main 'Amelia' post

Reviews Part 2

Quotes from USA where no country given.

Dallas News Oct 23 **---
Tellingly, the best moments are provided by two minor characters. [...] And Christopher Eccleston is great – edgy and provocative – as navigator Fred Noonan. He went down with Amelia that day her plane was lost. The highest praise I have for Amelia is that it made me wish the movie had been about him.
Rolling Stone Oct 23 *---
But innovation takes a back seat to endless visions of Swank smiling through as she and her navigator (Christopher Eccleston, in the film's best and unfussiest performance) are last seen flying over the Pacific.
Allan Given Oct 23 **---
Woefully underutilizing the talent of Christopher Eccleston (ELIZABETH), the filmmakers simply gave Eccleston a couple of throw away scenes that really did nothing to further what could have been a much more dynamic storyline.
Film School Rejects Oct 23 D
The Upside: Two standout performances: A convincingly tragic Christopher Eccleston as Earhart's navigator Fred Noonan, and Earhart's Lockheed Electra. It's a damn shame that beautiful bird was never found.
We Are Movie Geeks Oct 23 ***1/5--
The only person with Amelia on that final flight was her navigator Fred Noonan, with a subtle performance from Christopher Eccleston [...]
David Edelstein Oct 23
The navigator, Fred, is an alcoholic played by Christopher Eccleston, who has more chemistry in his brief scenes with Swank than either Gere (who's trying to dampen his sex appeal) or McGregor [...]
Blast Magazine Oct 23 **--
Christopher Eccleston ably backs her up as her navigator, Fred Noonan.
Le Cinema Oct 23 **--- (Canada)
[...] Christopher Eccleston continue d'étonner en évitant constamment les faux pas.

[Christopher Eccleston continues to amaze constantly steering clear of mistakes.]
Denver Post Oct 23 **

Swank is sturdy, watchable as Earhart. But the film's finest moments belong to Christopher Eccleston, who plays Fred Noonan, the navigator who disappeared with Earhart.
By the time Noonan clasps his hands and looks to be bowing his head, the chronology of "Amelia" has looped back to the fated flight.
Above a vast ocean, the two aim for Howland Island, a speck in the Pacific.
In a tart scene earlier, gifted celestial navigator and earthbound drinker Noonan had challenged Earhart about her relationships.
Now he provides a pantomime of faith in pilot Earhart, but also a sincere wish that God be a co-pilot, too.
Post-Gazette Oct 23 **1/2--
Christopher Eccleston's Noonan has the ring of a real person.
Reel Views Oct 22 **1/2--
Both Ewan McGregor and Christopher Eccleston are underused. That's especially disappointing in Eccleston's case, because Noonan seems to be a more interesting character than the title one. (Although it's doubtful a film called Fred could have been greenlighted.)
MNFilmTV Oct 22 **
However, Christopher Eccleston (kind of funny that him and McGregor are in this since they were both in SHALLOW GRAVE together), sports a surprisingly convincing american accent as a navigator.
Wilmington on Movies Oct 22 ***
[...] with fine performances by Hilary Swank as the spunky, expert flier Amelia, [...] Christopher Eccleston as her hard drinking navigator Fred Noonan [...]

Eccleston has one good pseudo-seduction drunk scene, and he sometimes shows an unsettling facial resemblance to the Spencer Tracy of Test Pilot. The climactic Lockheed Electra sequence, with Amelia and Fred lost in clouds over the Pacific, unable to hear their ground crew’s radio, and calmly or nervously headed toward apparent disaster, is really well-done, crisp and thrilling.
Back Stage Oct 22
Best among the men, though, is Christopher Eccleston as Fred Noonan, her dedicated but alcoholic navigator. Their scenes together as she attempts to fly around the world are tense, exciting, and splendidly played by both actors.
Starpulse Oct 22 ***--
Other performances worthy of highlighting are that of Ewan McGregor who portrays Earhart's friend and lover, Gene Vidal, as well as the performance of Christopher Eccleston who portrays round the world navigator, Fred Noonan.
All four give performances that will likely be in the running for an Oscar and Golden Globe; particularly Christopher Eccleston. His character of Fred Noonan was the one with the most depth and arch. Eccleston's performance gives you the sense of truly being there in the plane with Earhart, and makes you feel the same chills that Noonan and Earhart must have felt upon realizing their impending doom.
A.V. Club Oct 22 D
The messy fascination of life is replaced by a schematic series of setups and payoffs. The second it’s mentioned that Christopher Eccleston’s navigator is a recovering alcoholic, it's clear that it's only a matter of time before he falls off the wagon at a pivotal moment. His lived-in performance is one of the film's only bright spots, though, along with Cherry Jones' fleeting turn as an impish Eleanor Roosevelt.
STL Today Oct 23 [22] **1/2
And the last segment of the film, in which the ill-fated Earhart and an emotionally scarred navigator named Fred Noonan (Christopher Eccleston) hopscotch across the Southern Hemisphere, is heartbreaking. But since it isn't tethered to a suspenseful ending, there's no reason why "Amelia" shouldn't have aimed for the stars.
Time Out Chicago Oct 22 **---
Swank is an excellent physical match for Earhart, though she always seems as if she's playing period-drag dress-up as opposed to inhabiting a character. Her romantic scenes with Gere are bloodless, her trysts with McGregor (despite his swoon-inducing baby blues) even more so. But platonic sparks fly between her and Christopher Eccleston, who plays Earhart's ill-fated navigator, Fred Noonan, with aggressively bloodshot gravitas.
Entertainment Weekly Oct 21 C+
Christopher Eccleston, as Noonan, is the one understated player in this endeavor.
David Germain Oct 21 **--
A sturdy supporting cast that includes Christopher Eccleston, as the navigator who disappeared with Earhart on her final flight over the Pacific [...]
Pop Culture Nerd Oct 19
Christopher Eccleston offers prickly but stouthearted support as Earhart's navigator, Fred Noonan.
Box Office Oct 19 ***--
Christopher Eccleston has a small but powerful role as Fred Noonan, the navigator that vanished with Earhart on her last flight.
Variety Oct 18
As Fred Noonan, the often-soused but skillful navigator who vanished along with Earhart, Christopher Eccleston strikes up a prickly chemistry with Swank [...]
Hollywood Reporter Oct 18
The business of flying in those days was fraught with peril, however, and the film does a good job of creating suspense during Earhart's last flight. Christopher Eccleston makes a fine contribution as her navigator.
Pete Hammond Oct 14
[...] she's even better in the quieter moments behind the controls of the plane -- particularly in a suspenseful sequence toward the end where she and her navigator (expertly played by Christopher Eccleston) try to fly their way out of trouble.


joanr16 said...

Just got home from seeing it.

Superficially at least, Amelia puts me in mind of Elizabeth, minus the sex and violence: powerful female lead; various types of self-interested men in her orbit; tweaked history; showy costumes; soaring cinematography.

The script is another matter, and I tend to agree with the critics who say Amelia, overall, falls short of the mark.

Random thoughts about Eccleston's performance: both MacGregor and Gere are forced to chew his dust; he needs to practice his American vowel sounds a bit more; and nobody, but nobody, does a better drunken leer than our Chris.

I would be absolutely thrilled if he's nominated for big prizes for this performance, but I guess we'll have to wait and see on that. Those things are so political.

And speaking of... what's up with the French? Or did my Cassell's French-English Dictionary deceive me? That looked like a full-on Gallic dis, to me. Once again, they've sorely misjudged an Englishman.

¡Oye Cristóbal! said...

Hey, thanks so much for your review. So you do agree with the critics? Interesting. But glad to hear Eccleston rules the film. Please share more thoughts!

The French - mine is rusty as hell, but I believe they say he 'continues to surprise constantly steering clear of mistakes'.
Can any experts confirm or debunk it?

joanr16 said...

Somewhere, my high-school French teacher is quietly weeping. I mistranslated continue d'etonner ("continues to amaze") as detonner ("continues to be out of tune or to jar"), and it all went downhill from there. My apologies to France.

Sometimes I need to see a film two or three times to get the full impact, but for the most part my first impressions of the overall film, and even of Swank's performance, do agree with the critics. There was something almost... mannequin-esque about Swank's Amelia, at least compared to her Oscar-winning performances, which were raw and intense.

And I acknowledge that the story's ending, now a 72-year-old legend known throughout the world, would be hard to get right. But after several tense minutes of frustrating radio exchanges between Earhart and the ship Itasca, with the fear and desperation plain on Swank and Eccleston's faces, the film just sort of peters out. (Although I suppose the alternative would have to involve the various speculations as to what became of the plane and its occupants, which probably is a terrible idea.)

Fred Noonan's own story was so sad, I find myself agreeing completely with the reviewer who said he should've had his own movie. Noonan really was something of a genius navigator (essentially a mathematician), until his alcoholism ruined his reputation. He took the extremely high-profile but poorly-planned Earhart flight in the desperate hope of restoring his name and career. That's the kind of character CE can play like a symphony; in Amelia we get a few short bursts of a Yo-Yo Ma cello solo, but that's all. Add the fact that Earhart's own father was an alcoholic, and you see lots of missed opportunities. (I'm starting to imagine what a two-person stage play might have been like, starring Eccleston and Swank. Eccleston could have explored Fred's desperation, and Swank could have thrown her heart into Amelia, the way she did with Brandon Teena.)

I'm sure many people will love Amelia, and they're certainly not wrong to do so. It has wonderful cinematography and editing. Swank has that eerie-resemblance thing going. And the film's heart is absolutely in the right place, even if its head may be a little woozy.

One last thought: returning to the Amelia/Elizabeth comparison. Both films starred two of the world's greatest actresses, and among all the men in their orbits, Eccleston was the one actor who truly held his own opposite them. (Well, him and Geoffrey Rush. Nobody messes with Geoffrey.)

Well done, CE.

¡Oye Cristóbal! said...

Oh yes, it should have been 'Fred Noonan, the Navigator'.

I disagree with the portrayal of him as alcoholic though, there's no contemporary evidence on that, but I'm not going to question the quality of CE's work!

What a great idea of two-person play - it would've been beyond amazing.

If I may ask, could I post your thoughts as a guest review?

joanr16 said...

I disagree with the portrayal of him as alcoholic though, there's no contemporary evidence on that.

Excellent point. I may be the victim of "received ignorance," for all the Earhart bios I've read over the years put forward the notion of his alcoholism; whereas perhaps Noonan, himself, was the victim of a whispering campaign.

I'm flattered that you'd care to post my blatherings as a guest review. If it doesn't lower the blog's collective IQ, please feel free.

¡Oye Cristóbal! said...

Yes, the speculations were based mainly on one or two highly biased utterances. My hopes were that Eccleston would counteract any injustices, but it looks like it was made into main plot device, so not much could've been done. One way or another, I'm glad Noonan was played by Eccleston.

Your review is posted, if you want to make any changes, or be credited otherwise, let me know. Thank you for your input!

joanr16 said...

You did a beautiful editing job, and make me look smarter than I am. Thanks!

Can you tell me, what did you read or watch that debunks the Noonan alcoholism rumors? Clearly I need to update my understanding of his story.

Finally, here's a link to Lisa Schwarzbaum's review for Entertainment Weekly (via CNN). She only gives the film a C+ rating, but she does single out Eccleston's performance for praise.


If he wants more work in American television and film, this performance appears to be drawing the right sort of attention.

¡Oye Cristóbal! said...

Well, your thoughts were interesting, that's why I posted the review, so thanks go to you.

Noonan. As I'm a supporter of Gardner Island theory, I mostly read the documents TIGHAR collected.
Of books, it's Finding Amelia, which, even if you do not believe in the scenario of the final they create, provides a great insight to the reality behind the public face of World Flight - no speculations, everything comes from official documents, letters, etc.

Online, the FAQ directly states the question Was Fred Noonan an alcoholic?. They'd like to believe he wasn't.

There's though The Brines Letter, purporting to be contemporary evidence - but its tone and attitude towards the whole affair doesn't exactly make it cogent.

Brief life story of Fred Noonan can be read here, of interest are also the letters he wrote during World Flight.

Another book, 'Amelia Earhart's Shoes', says very aptly:
All in all, we haven't found any evidence that Noonan was an alcoholic, though of course we can't prove that he wasn't. If he did suffer from this disease, we can find no credible evidence that it affected his behavior at take-off from Lae. Of course, one can speculate that he drank himself silly once the plane was in the air, or that he bravely held himself together until the Electra left the ground, and then passed out. One could also speculate that he had a nervous breakdown, went blind, or was possessed by the devil.


Thanks for the link, I've seen the article, but forgot to include it here. Will update.

I was rather surprised - positively - that American critics paid so much attention to him.