Knowing the inevitable ending of Amelia makes this film a bit sober, even from the opening credits. But rather than focus on Amelia Earhart’s (Hilary Swank) disappearance over the Pacific Ocean with her navigator Fred Noonan (Christopher Eccleston), this story concentrates on the passionate dreams and turbulent marriage of the famous aviator.
Earhart tackled at least two battlefronts—first as a pilot in the early days of aviation when planes and their crews were testing the limits of this new form of transportation. She also faced the challenge of being a member of the small, but determined, group of women who wanted to prove their own capabilities in the air.
But her zeal for aeronautics and a vagabond spirit coupled with memories of an alcoholic father make the idea of matrimony feel like a cage, even if it is, as she puts it, an attractive one. Still, George Putnam (Richard Gere), an American publisher and publicist, can’t help but fall in love with the feisty and freckled girl from Kansas after marketing her trip as the first woman to fly across the Atlantic in the role of flight commander.
For the most part, relationships are a trouble-ridden part of the story. Even after accepting George’s proposal of marriage, Amelia’s uneasiness is evident as she takes her wedding vows. And despite George’s professions of affection, Amelia’s navigator Fred is among those who raise suspicions about her husband’s love for her verses his love of a promotional challenge—in this case, his wife’s identity. The script also depicts an extramarital affair she has with Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor), an aeronautics instructor at West Point and the Director of the Bureau of Air Commerce.
However, when Amelia is in the air, all the complications of life fall away. Her attempts to break or set records also make her a hero for Americans struggling through the bleak days of the Great Depression. And the picturesque scenes of Amelia touching down in remote locations around the world allows for plenty of impressive cinematography as well.
Although the movie is likely aimed more at adults, it contains relatively mild content concerns, even for teens. Depictions of sexual encounters and infidelity are mostly confined to kissing between clothed couples, implied sex and scenes of the morning after. Alcohol use (and the discussion of alcohol abuse), smoking and Amelia’s reluctant endorsement of cigarettes are also part of the script. As well, some frightening moments occur over the ocean and later during a plane crash.
While this story can only hurtle toward an unhappy ending, Hilary Swank’s earnest interpretation of this historic character offers a touching tribute to this adventurous aviator.