Movie: ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’

By Kurt Jensen, OSV News

NEW YORK (OSV News) – There are religious underpinnings to the fact-based emergency-in-the-air drama “On a Wing and a Prayer,” which is streaming now on Amazon Prime. But any effective exploration of faith within this elaboration on an incident that took place on Easter Sunday 2009 is blunted by the movie’s inept script and off-key tone.

Thus, when one of the film’s two principal figures, Terri White (Heather Graham), prays that God will send angels to hold up the wings of the twin-engine aircraft her husband Doug (Dennis Quaid) is attempting to land, it sounds more sentimental than transcendent. Nor does the production budget seem to have allowed for seraphim.

What remains, as directed by Sean McNamara and written by Brian Egeston, is mostly a testament to sweating it out, muddling through and improvising. Any sense of imminent peril, moreover, gets diffused by the distracting backstories of a variety of secondary characters.

Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham star in a scene from the movie “On A Wing And A Prayer.” The OSV News classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (OSV News photo/Boris Martin/Prime Video)

At center stage, Doug has taken command because the plane’s captain died of a heart attack shortly after departure from Florida. But he’s out of his depth, never having trained to fly such a vessel.

Volunteer intermediary Dan Favio (Rocky Myers), an aspiring air traffic controller, calls Kari Sorenson (Jesse Metcalfe), an experienced pilot living in Connecticut, for guidance. This would seem to abate the crisis, but then there are stormy skies to navigate.

Down on terra firma, meanwhile, preteen amateur flight tracker Donna (Raina Grey) has noted the potential calamity and provides a running commentary. “If he goes too slow, the plane could drop out of the sky. That’s probably what happened to Amelia (Earhart),” she says.

With that kind of help, little wonder the Whites are seeking celestial assistance.

Doug, a believing Louisiana pharmacist and father of two teen girls, is shown early on to have been thrown into a crisis by the unexpected death of his brother Jeff (Brett Rice). He is so numbed, he can’t eulogize Jeff at the funeral.

“I’m tired of losing people,” he tells Terri. She assures him, “God’s going to get us through.” But he’s embittered all the same: “Why did he let this happen?”

Doug’s brush with doom is supposed to stand as an example of rediscovering faith under extreme pressure. Aesthetically, though, technical details keep his story parked inertly on the tarmac while theologically it seems suspect to suggest that only his deliverance will prove God’s presence or providence. Still, such is the rigid formula of the genre.

The film contains characters in danger and intense emotions, including scenes of mourning. The OSV News classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for OSV News.

Author: OSV News

OSV News is a national and international wire service reporting on Catholic issues and issues that affect Catholics.

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