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    Fate Is the Aviator

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    As producer/director Clint Eastwood’s Sully,the much-anticipated screen adaptation of heroic pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s autobiography Highest Duty (written with Jeffrey Zaslow), takes off tomorrow on 3,500+ screens nationwide, audiences will experience not only a harrowing recreation (shot with IMAX cameras) of the January 15, 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson” forced water landing that spared the lives of all 155 passengers and crew of US Airways Flight 1549 but also the formidably intense investigation into what happened – and the questions raised about possible human error in the cockpit that threatened to ruin the life and career of veteran flyer Sullenberger (played by Tom Hanks). Tales of endangered aircraft have gripped moviegoers across the decades, from the deadly serious (The Crowded Sky, Zero Hour, Airport) to classic spoofs of the deadly serious (the beloved Airplane! films). A long-time pilot whose novels of heroism aloft served as the basis for two indelible John Wayne adventures, Ernest K. Gann wrote the screenplay adaptations of the well-regarded box-office hits Island in the Sky and The High and the Mighty, both powerfully directed by another guy who liked to fly, William A. Wellman. Gann’s 1961 memoir of his years in the air, Fate Is the Hunter, also inspired another gripping 1964 Hollywood movie, this time focusing on a disastrous crash, the trauma inflicted on its airline’s personnel in general and one survivor in particular, and the investigation into why it happened. Like Sully, it dramatically portrays a turbulent aftermath in which a painstakingly exhaustive probe into mechanical vs. human error precariously juggles lives and reputation in the balance. With the director’s chair manned by Ralph Nelson, whose three previous big-screen efforts Requiem for a Heavyweight, Lilies of the Field and Soldier in the Rain were distinctly personal stories, Fate Is the Hunter generates suspense in its own detailed depiction of the search for flaws in massive machines and the vulnerable humans who operate them. Lead investigator Glenn Ford has an obsessive drive to determine if his old wartime buddy, aircraft pilot Rod Taylor, was as professional to the core as he believes and not the reckless, hard-drinking reprobate onto whom the airline and the media want to place the blame. Surviving stewardess Suzanne Pleshette struggles to overcome her post-crash trauma in order to bring the truth to light. Taylor’s flame, marine biologist Nancy Kwan, knows all too well the fallibility of her lover as well as the caprices of chance. Engineer Nehemiah Persoff is a firm believer in the impeccability of the aircraft. Supporting players Wally Cox, Mark Stevens, Max Showalter, Constance Towers, Howard St. John, Mary Wickes and the briefly glimpsed Dorothy Malone and Jane Russell all provide backstory clues to unraveling the baffling puzzle of where susceptibilities lied in wait to trigger the catastrophe. Shot in lustrous black-and-white Cinemascope by Three Coins in the Fountain Academy Award® winner Milton Krasner, who earned another Oscar® nomination for his work here, Fate Is the Hunter pays homage to the professionalism of everyday heroes. And whether havoc is unleashed by a flock of geese in Sully or the devastatingly ordinary revelation discovered here, the dramatic payoff is powerful. Twilight Time’s hi-def Blu-ray also features an Audio Commentary with Kwan and Nick Redman as well as TT co-founder Brian Jamieson’s poetically heroic feature-length Kwan portrait To Whom It May Concern: Ka-Shen’s Journey. In this instance, Fate is not only a hunter but also a spellbinder.