Fearless – Review

Now that Jeff Bridges has won the Academy Award as Best Actor (not to mention The Golden Globes), I guess we can finally stop calling him “The most under-appreciated Actor of our generation.” But that was definitely the case back in 1993 when I learned “The Dude” had starred in a movie titled Fearless, (the very same nickname I’ve been given), so I couldn’t wait to see it.

Then I learned the plot involved an Air Crash Survivor.

With my own ultralight-crash 11 years in the past, I didn’t think that information would affect me … but I couldn’t help notice that my interest in viewing Fearless evaporated in a nano-second.

When the film came out on VHS (we’re talking 1994), and it was impossible to miss at our local video store. I remember my heart starting to race the moment I saw the cover art, which annoyed me, so I rented it—“Just to get this foolishness over with.”

I was expecting some sort of action/adventure flick. But with Peter Weir in the Director’s seat, Jeff Bridges giving the performance of his life, brilliant work by Rosie Perez, and a Screenplay written by Rafael Yglesias—the same man who authored the novel on which Fearless is based—I should have known better.

From the very first frame of this film, you realize you’re about to watch something exceptional, though I had no idea just how special it would be for me.

Fearless is an extraordinary film. It examines the after-effects of “cheating death” in a brutally honest, chilling manner. And as the story unfolded, I found myself grimly smiling, and nodding my head in agreement with every revelation.

This Production Team nailed it. Fearless accurately portrays the way it feels when you know you should be dead, but have somehow—“miraculously”—survived.

As a Screenwriter myself, I can’t stand reviews that give the plot away (especially as I suspect many of you won’t even know this film exists). But I will tell you that when we finally get to see the crash, it is one of the most amazing film sequences I’ve ever witnessed (and is handled in an extraordinarily sensitive manner).

My own crash was now 12 years old. I was aware it had affected me deeply … changed me … but I was back flying two days later. And though I’d had to work through a few unexpected after-effects, I thought I’d dealt with the incident and put it in my past.

I was wrong.

From the moment Jeff Bridges’ “Max” says, “This is it. This is the moment of my death,” I began to come apart. And as that “strangely-lyrical” crash scene began to unfold, accompanied by nothing but Maurice Jarre’s music, I lost it completely.

My own crash came roaring back in crystal clarity, and as my decade-old, repressed emotions burst out, I broke down and sobbed like a newborn. Michelle realized what was happening and tried to console me, but I’d held everything in for so long, I couldn’t stop crying.

As the film reached its climax, I found myself desperately trying to choks out the words that would explain what I was feeling. A few seconds later, Jeff Bridges’ character spoke exactly the same phrase, which made the whole cathartic experience even more surreal!

It was the most incredible cinematic moment I have ever experienced.

Now I fully realize this film so closely paralleled my own experience that my reaction was obviously not that of your typical viewer. And I have to warn you that parts of this film are not easy to watch—especially for pilots.

And I really don’t want to recommend it to those who have lost someone in a plane crash.

But if you want to experience an astonishingly powerful film, or want to know what it feels like to “die without dying,” put Fearless on your “must-see” list.

One thing I’ll guarantee—you’ll never see it as an “In-flight movie.”

Post Script

A few years ago, the TV series, Grey’s Anatomy, tried to tackle the same back-from-the-dead scenario by having Ellen Pompeo’s, Meredith Grey, survive a near-drowning incident. Sometime later, Grey tries to explain to a patient going through their own “Fearless Scenario” that the feelings you experience after “cheating death” fade with time, and life returns to normal.

Well, I can tell you one thing for sure.

Grey’s Anatomy got it wrong.

Fearless got it right.

You are never the same.

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