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Concorde - The Farewell

73 minutes (E) 2004
D.D.V. DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 1/10
reviewed by Paul Higson
In 1999 the newspapers were busy with the latest in speculations on a Nostradamus quatrain, a disastrous fireball in the sky over Paris. They waited and waited, nothing happened on the given day and everyone guffawed. In July 2000, BA lost one of its Concorde aircraft, caught on camera dramatically aflame crashing to earth on Parisian ground shortly after takeoff. But it wasn't the quatrain that was called up. Instead, the terrible event drew attention to how time was running out for supersonic travel, that no new craft had been built since the original batch in 1971, how faults and costs had crippled expansion to the extent that it had as good as been given up on.
   It is perhaps never a good idea to start with the sequel as what I might have demanded of Concorde - The Farewell may have been accounted for in the previous DVD from DD Video, Concorde, The World's Greatest Airliner, though having suffered the sequel I am never going to go back and investigate. The angle is precise, Concorde - The Farewell is here simply to cover the closing months of supersonic travel from May to October 2003 after 27 years of service, the earliest final runs decided on by Air France, the August to October flights seeing out the final five operable British Airways' Concorde (the other two had been deemed not worthy of refurbishment in July 2003). You get to see the Concorde, not only take off from various airports but land at them also, mostly in footage collected from amateurs taken on digital cameras of varying standard, the accompanying traffic noises unfiltered and awful, the all-star line-up of Sierra Delta, Foxtrot Alpha, Fox Bravo, Foxtrot Charlie, Alpha Charlie, Alpha Echo, Alpha Golf et al, dip their nose cones in turn for a final time. It should be more interesting, powerful and touching even, but the haphazard camerawork makes it dull and worthless. The narrator, Jeremy English, has a disinterested nasal air, lazily arriving immediately under the opening titles, a flat voice and a delivery a little too quick for those uninitiated in Concorde history. It bores, it bores, it bores; the racking up of information would work better as a book. The excitement of a supersonic craft lifting off and landing is never engaged.
   People who are rightly interested in the Concorde are wheeled out, those who have played an envious part in the short history of supersonic travel. They include former BA Concorde pilot and historian Christopher Orlebar, retired BA Concorde commercial pilot Captain Jock Lowe, BA Concorde Flight Manager Captain Jack Bannister, Alpha Golf pilot Captain Adrian Thompson and Colin Mitchell of Goodwood Travel, none of whom can be blamed for this limp package. It should be more entertaining to learn about a westerly sunrise, perhaps the last to be recorded by a commercial traveller, or to see the Concorde Room (the suite for outwardly bound passengers) after the fact, but the filming is lank and too often capturing nothing, or if capturing something doing so badly.
   The reasons for the death of the Concorde are interesting but the loss of regular business passengers in the collapse of the World Trade Centre, the SARS scare, terrorism issues and the fall in American passenger numbers to Paris due to the French opposition to the build-up the forced and wrongful Iraq War were only the final nails in the coffin. Like Jurassic Park, the Concorde was unfeasible, a rich man's mode of transport and rising costs, and diminishing returns, made the expenses irrecoverable from the outset. The history is well recorded and fascinating. Of course, supersonic travel was appealing if only for halving the travel time across the Atlantic; as much as one might love flying, if there is nothing but cloud out the window it can be a bore and frequent Atlantic crossers will miss it terribly. A technological marvel, I grew up commonly accepting it would stay with us, was unaware until my twenties that there was more than one Concorde, to be truthful. It's passing is a shocking backward step for mankind, and nobody is troubled, everyone is distracted by the petty crap. Welcome back to the subsonic age, everyone. All the more incorrigible is it that the people left to record these important events are the clumsiest of gonzo worshippers. The final days of Concorde, like the Transit of Venus are unrepeatable and exceptional moments in history and people should be forced to take notice or have the soles of their feet burned. In a sense, everyone is responsible for the blandness of this DVD.
   The disc sports knowledge but no skill is exhibited in Concorde The Farewell. The 14 minutes of extras include Air-to-Air Concorde; Concorde's Three Key Features; Captain Max Robinson landing the Alpha Delta in Fiji, and a trailer for Concorde, The World's Greatest Airliner.
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