Peter Weir’s movie contains what is perhaps the most terrifying and realistic-seeming jetliner crash ever filmed, a sequence so formidable that he saves it until the end of the movie, even though it happens chronologically at the beginning of his story and is hinted at in brief flashbacks throughout. The film is a meditation on fate, luck, and survivor’s guilt.
At the start of the film, passenger Jeff Bridges walks away from the crash, miraculously unscathed. Fellow passenger Rosie Perez loses her infant in the crash and spends most of the movie wallowing in guilt, imagining there was something she could have done to save the child, even while Bridges starts feeling indestructible and keeps tempting fate with daredevil behavior.
Both are living in denial, and both are, in their own way, seeking meaning in an existential universe that seems to offer neither fairness nor answers. The only possibility for healing involves confronting their experience head-on, which leads to the full sequence of the crash at the end of the film. Finally they (and the viewer) are able to gain some understanding and perspective on how to cope with arbitrary, cataclysmic events beyond our control.
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