“Charlie Victor Romeo” is among the more unlikely cinematic endeavors, a 3-D adaptation of the 1999 play taken nearly verbatim from the cockpit transcripts preceding six plane crashes. It’s a fascinating experiment that doesn’t quite translate to the big screen.
The film is divided into six chapters that follow the same format: title screens introduce the date and location of the crash at hand and show a diagram explaining what went wrong. We’re then taken inside the cockpit, which is a set engulfed in blackness, as three or four actors dramatize the conversations between pilots, illuminating the pressure of grappling with malfunctioning machinery as lives hang in the balance. Each sequence ends by divulging who, if anyone, survived.
The incidents at hand include the August 1985 crash of a Japan Airlines flight that killed 520 passengers and an Aeroperú Flight 603, which plummeted into the Pacific Ocean in 1996.
The material functions best as essentially a found-footage tribute to the men and women who handled these emergency situations with aplomb, meticulously attacking the crises at hand without suffering the sort of panic attacks that would prevent most of us from doing so.
The 3-D helps “Charlie Victor Romeo” retain some of live theater’s immediacy but there’s still a distancing effect on-screen. The filmmakers have essentially filmed the play, rather than turning it into a truly cinematic endeavor. Even the most gripping material starts to become mundane by the fourth or fifth time around.
Directed by Robert Berger, Patrick Daniels, Karlyn Michelson
Starring Robert Berger, Patrick Daniels, Noel Dinneen
Playing at Film Forum