Friday, July 3, 2015

#1,782. Straight Up: Helicopters in Action (2002)

Directed By: David Douglas

Starring: Martin Sheen

Line from this film: "Around the world, millions of human lives have been saved by helicopters"

Trivia: The opening scene for this film, set in the Swiss Alps, was shot in the U.S. Rocky Mountains

Straight Up: Helicopters in Action is a 2002 documentary that was designed exclusively for IMAX theaters, and as I was watching it, all I could think of was how cool it must have looked on a humongous screen.

Narrated by Martin Sheen, Straight Up is an introduction to the wonderful world of helicopters, teaching us the basics (including a brief history of the aircraft and a lesson on how they’re operated) while also taking us along on a few stirring adventures (the best of which involves the U.S. Border Patrol, who use a Blackhawk copter to chase down a pair of drug smugglers in a speedboat. Though clearly staged, the sequence was thrilling nonetheless). Whether its use be occupational (along with assisting workers who risk life and limb by repairing high-tension wires, there are helicopters specially designed to pick up large pieces of fallen timber, some as heavy as 12 tons, from the forest floor) or to help save lives (in one scene, a copter belonging to the United Nations Task Force shuttles food to starving families in Sierra Leone), these aircrafts have become an integral part of the world we live in, and thanks to the advancements made in both their design and operation, odds are they’ll be around for many years to come.

An in-depth, informative documentary, Straight Up is also pretty darn exciting at times. Aside from the drug bust mentioned above, the film shows us a military helicopter firing on enemy positions and extracting troops who’ve been pinned down by gunfire. More than this, though, Straight Up contains breathtaking footage that celebrates the marvel of flight, following the experimental XV-15 as it glides above a city highway, and giving us a first-hand look at what the pilot of a Comanche sees while flying over a forest. Straight Up will certainly teach you a thing or two about helicopters, yet it’s the spectacle of it all that makes a lasting impression. Had I watched this documentary in an IMAX theater, I’m sure I’d have been blown away, but even on my TV screen, it was a sight to behold.

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