The story of Amelia Earhart is not only about the early history of aviation and record-setting flights from around the world. The story of this legendary female pilot is also, if not more importantly, about a young woman who braved a field dominated by men and opened many doors for future generations of women. For contemporary audiences, Amelia's story is that of a feminist icon. As a member of the National Woman's Party and champion of the Equal Rights Amendment, her tale is told to influence and motivate little girls, and in many cases even boys, into believing there are no limits to what they can achieve as individuals.
With so many endeavors to cover, the story of Amelia Earhart is not an easy one to tell in under two hours. But Mira Nair gives it her all with her unique style, combining sweeping drama with photography that is immensely gorgeous and vibrant. The director of 'Mississippi Massala', 'Vanity Fair', and the excellent 'Monsoon Wedding' provides 'Amelia' with the sort of handsome and picturesque portrait well deserving of a true American legend. There's a wonderful and appreciable awareness that we're not merely watching the biography of a historical figure, but that we are getting to know the life of a very courageous woman.
Hilary Swank, turns out to be the perfect choice to portray "Lady Lindy", complementing Nair's vision for presenting a real person rather than a celebrity. Previous depictions of Earhart are either pure caricature, as done by Amy Adams in 'Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian,' or a romanticized image of what we imagine her to be, like Diane Keaton did in 'Amelia Earhart: The Final Flight.' This is not to downplay their portrayals in any way, but Swank's performance feels more authentic and sincere. She fits the part, looking almost like a mirror-image of Earhart in certain scenes, and even delivers a terrifically charismatic charm.
Hindering Swank's performance and Nair's vision is a script that tries to do more than it's really capable of handling. It's clear writers Ronald Bass (best known for 'Rain Man') and Anna Hamilton Phelan ('Girl, Interrupted') want to show as much of Earhart's triumphs and successes along with her personal labors as is possible, but in doing so, we seem to be missing an idea as to why many of those things affected her life and lack a better understanding of her as a person and her motivations. Based on two separate books about the renowned pilot, the narrative seems more content with highlighting the things we already know instead of delving deeper into her personality and the woman she was.
'Amelia' only touches upon certain aspects and worries of the real Amelia Earhart's life and shows more concern with arriving at the inevitable conclusion. Then again, the final third act is the film's most compelling part. While it does have its moments of dullness around the middle, the ending almost makes it seem worth sitting through. Despite already knowing how the story will sadly end, Nair and Swank make the entire thing quite absorbing and moving. Although the set up is a bit of a turbulent ride, at least the finish makes for a strong landing.
'Amelia' debuts on Blu-ray with a gorgeous and highly-detailed 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer (2.35:1) which faithfully and beautifully captures the photography of Stuart Dryburgh. The warm amber palette gives the high-def transfer an attractive cinematic quality with richly saturated primaries and bold, varied secondary hues. Fine object and architectural details are top-notch and strikingly sharp, making the numerous scenic views splendid and stunning to look at. Flesh tones are healthy and accurate with good textured complexions. Contrast is spot-on with a full-bodied punch, affording the picture a great deal of clarity and visual acuity in the long distance shots. Brightness levels are dynamic and profound, with terrific gradations in the blacks, providing the image with wonderful three-dimensional depth. Shadow details are excellent during the many dark sequences.
The only negligible nitpick keeping the image from perfection is a couple of scenes that look softer than the rest of the film. Aside from those scenes, 'Amelia' makes for a dazzling, high-quality Blu-ray presentation.
The dramatized biopic arrives with an impressive DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that nicely suits the subject matter. The mostly front-heavy mix delivers pitch-perfect dialogue reproduction, and imaging is expansive with plenty of off-screen activity in the soundstage. Gabriel Yared's musical score really shines here, bleeding into the rears and creating an engaging and inviting soundfield. The mid-range is very satisfying, with extensive, sharp clarity, differentiating between the instruments of the orchestra and the interior acoustics of the airplanes persuasively. The film doesn't require heavy bass in the sound design, but low-frequency response adds good realistic depth to the music and certain scenes in need of it. Ambient effects are very subtle and a bit sporadic, but they are never truly immersive or enveloping. Overall, it's a strong and enjoyable audio presentation for 'Amelia'.
'Amelia' lands onto Blu-ray with a decent set of special features that are only mildly entertaining, but they're not a complete loss either.
Mira Nair's 'Amelia' makes for a great-looking film, with a strong performance from Hillary Swank. Unfortunately, the dramatized biopic fails to make much of an impression narratively, except for the final compelling moments. The Blu-ray lands in home theaters with an excellent A/V presentation and an average compilation of special features. Fans will be very happy with the overall product while others will want to give it a rent first.