Inspired by a true story, this Disneyish sally to the crash site that spawned a miracle lacks the muscle of reality.
Emerging director Ian Power takes a conservative approach in writing and directing this heart warmer from the warmest of all places, Country Cork, Ireland. Inspired by the true story of a South American pilot who crash-landed his plane near Mallow, Ireland, in 1983, Power’s tale is fresh, lovely and thoroughly PG rated. Unfortunately, it adds nothing to the genre and, so, in the final analysis may simply be too good hearted for its own good.
Demián Bichir plays Ernesto, the pilot who is forced to crash land his plane under mysterious circumstances in the beautiful green countryside. The crash landing is handled with commendable dexterity and power by the filmmaker, but that kind of creativity is all too rare in the movie. Borrowing a page from the legendary “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” the magical flash of light and magnetic hidden crash beyond the hill is witnessed by the young boy Paco (Jamie Kierans) who runs to the scene full of the excitement that only a child can muster.
As he would do with a lost dog, the boy takes Ernesto home to his single mom, Grace, played by the delightfully sexy Kerry Condon. The screenplay goes through the usual tropes including the incredibly beautiful, desirable, vulnerable, available and virtuous mom who discovers the strange, sexy hunk in her shower. She is appropriately shocked while registering appreciation for Ernesto’s body and a bit of a romance is born.
Paco, who we are reminded is just a child, is oblivious to all of this. He sees only a friend, protector and adventurous father figure in Ernesto. Much the same as the ET set-up wherein the children grasp the true, friendly and needy nature of the alien who the townsfolk would kill with torches and pitchforks. The funny part of the film comes when Paco, who is bi-lingual and speaks Spanish, uses his wits to mistranslate Ernesto to the runaway’s advantage. The result is a child’s version of “Lost in Translation” focused on playing grown-up politics.
Whatever the reason, the child brings together the town to the defense of the unidentified crash victim, rebuilds his plane and even builds a runway for his use. This is done with rich, heartwarming scenes of various of the town’s citizens discovering their inner child, waking up from their stultifying, selfish adult mind sets, putting their differences aside and coming up with unimaginable resources (a thousand gallons of aviation fuel?) to get the stranger back on his way. The bicycle shop owner turns out to be an aerospace engineer, the local Irish gypsy road builders come up with the asphalt for a runway and the film ends with a cheer and black ink on the bottom line. Maybe.
Perhaps we should try crash landing a few Arabs in Israel and see how that works in bringing peace to the Middle East.
An alternative approach would have been to transport the man and his plane to the nearest town with a runway and let him take it from there. One of the weaknesses in this film is that the screenplay does not completely convince us of why the town chose to take the alternative, vastly less practical, approach. If it was the heartrending translation of the child, that does not come through in this screenplay. Speaking strictly from the standpoint of an American citizen, if a South American without any stated ID, mission or credentials was to crash land in one of our fields, we would call the police and head for cover.
A good hearted film that is professional written, photographed and scored, “Runway” will provide a safe haven on a rainy afternoon but lacks the dynamic to make a place for itself on the marque. Look for better things from this cast and crew.
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Directed and Written by: Ian Power
Starring: James Cosmo, Demián Bichir and Kerry Condon
Release Date: July 18, 2012
MPAA: Not Rated
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Country: Ireland / Luxembourg