on 18 July 2011
I snapped this film up as I am both a fan of the actress Marion Cotillard and someone who has interest in explorers and aviators of this period. Upon it's release, this film was compared unfavourably with "The English Patient" but , as the story unfolded, I felt that it owed far much more some some of the accounts of Antoine de St. Exupery who similarly crashed in the desert and wrote about the experience as well as being inspired by the hallucinations he experienced to produce the classic children's book "The little prince." Alot of this seemed very similar to events or comments made in this film.
I must admit that this film would probably be worthy of only two stars if it hadn't been for the spectacular scenary albeit Marion Cotillard is equally as impressive on the eye. The film concerns the arrival by biplane in a remote desert output of a woman intent on finding her lover whose airplane went missing a few days earlier. A sub-plot concerns the anti-colonial soldier played by Guillaume Canet who ultimately befriends her and then decides to help lead her into the deepest parts of the desert to find the missing plance after falling out with his captain who is more concerned with fighting the Tauregs. Despite running for over an hour and a half, little more actually happens in the film than this. There is little chemistry between the two lead actors and whilst there are brief moments of action, the stunning cinematography is what grabs the attention.
Ultimately, the film was a little bit of a disappointment and the end , whilst beautifully filmed, arrived very suddenly and was a bit of a cop out. The title gives you all the clues you need to find out whether the couple were successful in their quest. However, having watched the film through to the end, I was staggered to read the notes before the credits started to roll which suggested that the story was true and not a piece of fiction as I had assumed. The missing English pilot Bill Lancaster (actually Autralian by adaption) did disappear on a flight from London across the desert in 1933 and the crash site was discovered exactly as described. Looking the characters up, it transpire that Cotillard's character was actually called Chubbie Miller and she wasn't French (another Australian) albeit it was true that that had flown from London to Australia together at the same time as fellow aviation pioneer Bert Hinkler who also flew an Avro Avian too. More interestingly, Lancaster had an interesting career having flown for the Australians in WW1, flirted with Hollywood, become unwittingly involved in drug smuggling from Mexico and was then sensationally acquitted of the murder of Chubbie Miller's biographer and would be lover. Having known this, I felt that his story would have made a far more interesting film but the director chose to produce this dramatisation of a novel which is a mixture of fact and fiction where Miller's character is transformed into an adventurous, French aristocrat. The costumes, vintage planes and nostalgic feel of the film are great but there is probably very little that would make you want to sit through this a second time. Definately a feeling of a director who had backed the wrong horse!
on 13 July 2014
I think that Marion Cotillard is one of the best actresses appearing in films today.
Sadly “The Last Flight” would not convince anyone who has not seen her before of the fact.
The film starts with some great photography, then the scene is set for what the plot is about and then you need to be prepared to be disappointed, as Marion Cotillard’s talents and those of her real life husband Guillaume Canet are wasted by the director and script writer.
I cannot remember the last time I had looked forward to watch a film as much as I had with this film to then to be so disappointed.
Yes, there is some good desert photography but if you want to see great desert photography I would recommend that of F A Young in David Lean’s 1962“Lawrence Of Arabia” (and a far better directed film with a much better plot).
My criticism of “The Last Flight” is towards the director and writer – as the cast do admirable work.
But the further I got through the film the more it became unexciting.
Much hard work was put into this film including Guillaume Canet learning new language. The real life characters on which “The Last Flight” is loosely based have so much more to tell than this film give us.
Sorry Marion, Guillaume and all who were shown in this film but it came across as …well dull really.
Imagine a film about people walking around a big empty cardboard box the size of the Sahara – well that is basically what you get. The development of the characters is so week as to not develop at all after they leave the camp to wander about the desert in search of people.
With the talent available to the director, I feel embarrassed for Marion and Guillaume that this is what he has directed them to do.
When boiled down to a synopsis, Karim Dridi’s Le Dernier Vol sounds like the kind of film that could go one of several ways: a grand romantic adventure a la English Patient, a story of westerners drawn into obsession and self-destruction in an exotic land they don’t belong a la The Sheltering Sky or a critique of 20th century French colonialism a la Fort Saganne with elements of Antonie de Saint-Exupéry’s semi-autobiographical writing thrown in for good measure, but it doesn’t really do any of them with much enthusiasm, passion or conviction. Instead, it just drifts aimlessly through nicely photographed Saharan dunescapes as Marion Cotillard’s pilot searches for her missing lover and forces her way into a punitive army expedition led by the ambitious by the book Guillaume Marquet who mistakenly thinks he’s oozing refined charm. Luckily Guillaume Canet is there as well as one of those experienced and vaguely spiritual-yet-cynical soldiers who understands the desert and the Taureg – why, he even sleeps with one of them he treats as an equal to emphasise how unlike his unthinkingly bigoted fellow officers he is – and whose advice is therefore routinely ignored by his mistrusting and inexperienced superiors who have been de rigueur in desert epics since Lawrence of Arabia. No prizes for guessing what will happen or that it won’t end well for anyone.
The story is vaguely based on a true incident (albeit with nationalities and details changed and anything worthy of note removed), but the life of the real-life missing pilot, Bill Lancaster, is so much more colourful and exciting than anything that happens in the film that you’re just left feeling they pointed the camera at the wrong people. A big part of the problem is that the characters just aren’t interesting and the actors seem to be unable to bring them to life or carry the audience’s sympathy on a largely uneventful journey that feels a lot longer than the film’s 94 minutes, none more so that Cotillard. Her character’s passion and frustration simply translates onscreen as the kind of aloof surliness that some French actresses in particular mistake for strength of character as she goes about losing friends and failing to influence people: you almost feel sorry for Marquet, and that’s clearly not the idea at all. She doesn’t even display any chemistry with Canet (her partner offscreen as well as on), who at times give the impression that it’s one of those family outings he didn’t really want to go on and is making a show of stoically putting up with so that everyone knows it. You could almost imagine him wearing a T-shirt saying ‘My girlfriend went to the Sahara and all I got was this lousy part in a movie.’ The one interesting thing the film does is show that his ‘two-bit humanism’ is just as disastrously misjudged as Marquet’s euphoric embrace of the white man’s burden, but the film never bothers to explore the consequences, resolving his conflict with Marquet in the most infantile way possible and simply treating it as a means of getting the two leads alone so the last third can turn into a love story.
It’s the kind of film you might be tempted to excuse as a well-intentioned misfire if only you could work out what the film’s intentions actually were, but it’s got precious little story to tell, few incidents to liven up the trip, no atmosphere or sensuality and has no discernible point to make or even any real point of view. It’s something Cotillard, who was nominated for the French equivalent of a Razzie and described the film as the worst experience of her career, was all too aware of: "I fought for a project and I fought for the director because he was the one that brought the project and I fell in love with it, and then I spent two months in the middle of the desert wanting to kill him and wanting to beat myself because I fought for him and he was so bad. He had no idea of what we were doing, he had no idea of what he wanted to do."
It’s one of those films that’s not terrible and not good but just sits there on the screen taking its time doing nothing in particular. One flight that just never takes off.
Picture quality on the optionally English subtitled widescreen transfer on the French Blu-ray is mostly impressive, albeit more so in the long shots than the close-ups, while a couple of the night sequences feel a little flat. Audio is good but the use of sound is more perfunctory than inspired so there's little to grab the attention. Extras - trailer and featurettes - are not English friendly, though the composers do speak in English on the one dedicated to the film's score.