'Living in the Age of Airplanes': Film Review

Living in the Age of Airplanes Still - H 2015
Courtesy of National Geographic

Living in the Age of Airplanes Still - H 2015

The visually stunning film offers a reminder that there's more to flying than delays and missing luggage

Brian J. Terwilliger's giant screen film narrated by Harrison Ford illustrates how air travel has dramatically altered our lives

Right about now, airplane travel needs all the good publicity it can get, what with the recent news events involving suicidal pilots and the crash suffered by that famous aviation buff Harrison Ford. So the timing is right for Brian J. Terwilliger's giant screen film that seeks to remind us how much we take for granted about the ability to effortlessly traverse the globe through the skies. Narrated by Ford himself, Living in the Age of Airplanes well fulfills its goals.

Considering its title, the film surprisingly doesn't dwell that much on airplanes themselves, although they certainly play a prominent role. Beginning with a look at the famed airplane graveyard in California's Mojave Desert, it inevitably includes much gorgeously photographed footage of aircraft ranging from jumbo jets to small seaplanes in flight.

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But the film is more interested in providing historical context about flying, which occupies a tiny percentage of the timeline of human history. Over the last 200,000 years, human beings were basically confined to walking wherever they wanted to go until the invention of the wheel some 5,000 years ago. That helped matters, as did the inventions of such things as ships and steam engines. But it wasn't until the invention of the airplane barely more than a century ago that we were eventually able to travel to far parts of the globe in mere hours.

The narration, delivered by Ford in his typically authoritative tone, is rather grandiose at times, informing us that an airport is "a portal to the planet" and that "the airplane is the closest thing we've had to a time machine." But it backs up those assertions quite well by presenting a virtual travelogue, depicting visitors to such far-flung sites as ancient ruins in Mexico to the Egyptian pyramids to the plains of Africa. It also effectively illustrates how the growth of air travel affects our daily lives, such as when it illustrates the hours-long journey of flowers cut in Kenya through the wholesale markets in Amsterdam to a vase in an Alaskan home. Another compelling sequence depicts the wide variety of objects found in a typical living room that were imported from countries around the globe.

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Featuring locations ranging from the Maldives Islands to the South Pole, the film illustrates how we can get to pretty much anywhere on the planet, although it doesn't shy away from pointing out the many inconveniences suffered along the way. But it also vividly illustrates that as we sit in our too cramped coach seats, attempting to pass the time with various diversions, that we are also taking part in a modern miracle about which our ancestors could never have dreamed.  

Featuring, yes, soaring visuals and a suitably stirring score by James Horner (Avatar, Titanic), Living in the Age of Airplanes will inevitably make for perfect in-flight viewing.

Production: Terwilliger Productions
Narrator: Harrison Ford
Director: Brian J. Terwilliger
Screenwriters: Brian J. Terwilliger, Jessica Grogan, Daniel Oppenheimer
Producers: Brian J. Terwilliger, Bryan H. Carroll
Executive producer: James Moll
Director of photography: Andrew Waruszewski
Editor: Brad Besser
Composer: James Horner

Not rated, 47 min.