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Stars: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston, Joe Anderson, Cherry Jones, Mia Wasikowska, Aaron Abrams, Dylan Roberts, Scott Yaphe, Tom Fairfoot, Ryann Shane, William Cuddy, Elizabeth Shepherd

Director: Mira Nair

It’s pretty obvious that a biopic with a ‘PG’ certificate isn’t going to be packed with the kind of image-destroying titbits which are de rigueur in modern movie biographies. So, no ‘three-in-a-bed’ revelations or startling ‘destroyed by drugs’ sequences on offer and none of the usual all-round blackguarding of celebrated 20th aviatrix Amelia Earhart. Instead, director Nair’s well-told, solidly scripted (Ron Bass, Anna Hamilton Phelan) tale of her life and mysterious disappearance while making an attempt to fly solo around the world in 1937 sometimes comes over as a tad underpowered, rather like Earhart’s aircraft.

That said, Nair and executive producer/star Swank’s movie is never dull, simply lacking in the kind of titillation many moviegoers now seem to take as their right. Swank’s portrait of America from avid-to-fly Kansas girl to all-American celebrity (Nair offers amusing vignettes of the now-famous Amelia advertising to the US public) to wife (Gere is solid and stolid as her publisher-husband) and lover (McGregor, even more than usually wooden and seemingly in danger of being attacked by termites playing her long-time friend and paramour) is strong and credible, and newsreel footage of the real Amelia shows a uncanny resemblance between subject and actress.

Superb cinematography (Stuart Dryburgh), fine production design (Stephanie Carroll) and excellent special effects – the flying sequences are powerfully achieved - plus Swank’s patent hard work add up to a surprisingly old-fashioned biopic, well-wrought by Nair but which doesn’t always succeed in getting off the ground dramatically.

Alan Frank

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox. Colour by deluxe.
115 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 16 Nov 2009