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Toronto, August 2001. Commander Robert Piche left Pearson Airport heading for Lisbon on an Airbus 330. Due to a significant fuel loss, he was headed for an almost certain crash. However, he courageously kept his cool and skillfully glided the plane to a safe landing, saving the 306 passengers on board. Back in Canada, Piche's criminal past and extraordinary life came to light, explaining somewhat how he was able to commit this heroic act. Written by
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Piché: A hero with a past. A great example of storytelling.
Impeccably scripted, beautifully directed, with amazing scenery and filled with fine performances, Piché: The Landing of a Man is a wonderful example of modern filmmaking at its finest and truly a great example of storytelling.
Directed by Sylvain Archambault Written by Ian Lauzon Starring Michel Côté, Maxime LeFlaguais, Norman D'Amour, Sophie Prégent and Isabelle Guérard
The story of an angel with clay wings, Piché: The Landing of a Man is based on the life of Robert Piché, a Montreal pilot who in 2001 guided a coughing, out-of-fuel Quebec jet over 100 miles of ocean, gliding the aircraft to a safe, screeching landing in the Portuguese Azores. In summary, Piche is a hero with a huge past. A past full of trauma and grief combined with alcohol, drugs and smoking. Piché The Landing Of A Man was reckoned to be on of Santa Barbara International FIlm Festival's favorite films. I went in to the theatre with ratter big expectations and got very disappointed when it all started of like a student film and the feeling that I'd seen this exact scene about a billion times before. But I learned not to judge a book by it's cover because things were about to change. The director Sylvain Archambault and his writer Ian Lauzon made this story, based on true events, to something out of the ordinary. Piché is about a pilot named Robert Piché who lives in Toronto with his family. We start of with getting to know the impact media has on him after he becomes a hero and how he is trying to hurdle the attention. But his heroism is tainted and short lived. His family are suffering from being in the spotlight and at the same time having to deal with Piché's returned drinking habits. We go back and forward between his traumatic past and his sad present. We see how he was treating his earlier wife like nothing, how he is neglecting his daughter, his disturbing time in jail and at last the thoughts he has while spending time in rehab. It is August 23d 2001 and Piché is flying a plane with 306 people to Lisbon. When a gas leak occurs and the engines stop, Piché has to skillfully try to land the plane. Chaos erupts on board of the plane and it is very emotional to watch. He is successful and becomes a nation wide hero. All this in terrifying, white-knuckle silence, while 293 passengers and 12 crew members held their breath.
Piché, who could teach Clint Eastwood a thing or two about flinty stoicism, brushed off any suggestion that he was a hero. Just doing my job, he told everyone afterwards. Weeks later, it is was revealed Piché spent time in a Georgia jail for drug smuggling. And that pilot error may have necessitated his heroic air show. Piché responded to all the praise and skepticism (maybe the adulation was harder to endure) by seeking refuge behind a forest of green beer bottles.
The film Piché has the grabby feel of a potent TV miniseries. That's not entirely a compliment. The (English-subtitled) Quebec movie suffers from some of the weaknesses of the genre. An overemphatic script lands too hard on the pilot's early troubles: Surely, not every woman was lolling about naked in post coital bliss, a plume of ganja smoke curling above their shoulder, at the precise moment the young pilot entered a Jamaican drug tycoon's palace.
And the harrowing Georgia prison sequence, which finds Piché chased by 400-pound would-be rapists, looks to be crudely lifted from the old HBO series Oz.
Nevertheless, Piché remains effective melodrama. The film benefits enormously from filmmaker Sylvain Archambault's ( Pour toujours, les Canadians) brilliant casting stroke: having veteran Quebec actor Michel Côté and his son, Maxime LeFlaguais play the old and young Robert Piché. Cote, who English audiences may remember for his lead role in C.R.A.Z.Y., has the necessary confidence and authority to underplay his role, making the viewer come to him. He gives a mesmerizing performance that is made more interesting by LeFlaguais's more extroverted playing as the young, foolishly reckless Robert Piché.
And screenwriter Ian Lauzon has wisely tinkered with what, in Quebec anyway, is a familiar story, shuffling the chronology of Piché's life. (The pilot became a Quebec hero in the autumn of 2001, when the rest of the continent was immersed in 9/11.) The film is told in haphazard flashbacks, with the young and old Piché confronting each other - a duel that allows us to better understand the pilot's torment.
Another dividend of the filmmakers' time shifting is that the movie gets to revisit Piché's heroic flight for what is a tense, involving climax. The last 20 minutes is devoted to Piché's flight into danger. And history.
Piché: The Landing of a Man is often overwrought, but seldom dull. For any national cinema to survive, it has to produce its share of popular, rousing melodramas. Piché raked in more than $3-million at the box office in Quebec inside a month earlier this summer. Alas, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is audience apathy, this kind of success has always largely eluded the English-Canadian film industry.
Up until the plane scene the film is not really all that interesting. The prison scenes, filled with profanity are quite disturbing and the scene set in Jamaica (which was actually filmed in Cuba) I also thought was strange and unexpected. The cinematography is not very winningly and acting is mediocre. This is a perfect example of how important the story telling in a film is. If it wasn't for how great the story is portrayed in that end scene this film would have been something I looked at and then forgot. Now, I am definitely going to think about this every time I am on a plane.
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