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By Russell Baillie

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Hilary Swank learned to fly for her role in Amelia. Photo / Supplied
Hilary Swank learned to fly for her role in Amelia. Photo / Supplied

Rating: * *

Verdict: Pioneering aviatrix's life was apparently quite dull

It does a very good wild blue yonder, does Amelia. Once it's chocks away, this biopic of the most famous woman pilot ever looks quite ravishing as Earhart's art deco-age Lockheeds are soaring between continents and into the record books.

But if anything, this film doesn't have quite enough air miles to sustain it, spending far too much time on terra firma loudly proclaiming how brave and pioneering and unconventional its heroine is, rather than showing us.

Not a scene of Earhart (Swank, seemingly channelling Katharine Hepburn) departing, flying over, or landing somewhere seems to come without our gal offering her own two cents' worth on why she likes to fly so much and so very far. Which is odd coming from a film which so limits its own horizons.

Not far through, you are wishing the movie would turn down the admiration and increase the revelation.

It's also burdened with a confusing structure that attempts to be elliptical, with its early foreshadowing of Earhart's final fateful flight, but instead induces slight dizziness with in its own narrative loop-the-loops.

It can at times feel like it's a movie that plays like an extended trailer, flitting as it does from chapter to chapter hoping something might resonate. But not much does, especially the coy, short shrift this gives to Earhart's love life - her open marriage to her agent-publisher George Putnam (Gere) seems more contractual arrangement than free-thinking. And neither Gere, nor Earhart's other leading man, aeronautics boffin Gene Vidal (father of Gore, played by McGregor) leave any lasting impression. As Earhart, Swank sure looks the part and shows being stuck on a 20-hour trans-Atlantic flight by yourself doesn't mean one shouldn't dress stylishly - or arrive with one's all-American dentistry giving off enough wattage to be used as landing lights.

But the film around her won't let Swank's portrayal breathe. Well, not until the final leg of that final flight across the Pacific during her global circumnavigation attempt.

Its restrained depiction of Earhart's growing hopelessness, as she fails to find the remote island which was to be her refuelling spot, finally delivers something real.

But for the most part the remarkable figure of Earhart gets a remarkably dull movie to remember her by. The planes might soar but the film barely makes it out of the hangar.

Russell Baillie

Cast: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor

Director: Mira Nair

Rating: PG (low level offensive language)

Running time: 111 mins

- NZ Herald

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