In some ways it’s the quintessential “hard-to-watch” film. The learning-curve is steep, but short…
This is the movie version of a broadway play (if that’s even the right fucking word), and in this case, “movie version” means they filmed it close-up with a few cameras. It’s kinda hard to pigeonhole this thing, which is ironic given its brutal simplicity.
It’s the dramatization of the final minutes of a handful of aviation accidents and incidents (which is FAA speak for events in which people were and were not killed or injured, respectively). It’s rigorously-based on Cockpit Voice Recordings (hence the title), and while a few college experiences left me with an abiding disdain for “theater people”, the verisimilitude of this is such that the troupe has been given kudos by Air Force generals and their performances have been taped by the Pentagon for training purposes. Some scenes are disconcertingly short: one lasting only long enough for the pilots to take-off and register multiple bird-strikes moments before the mercifully antiseptic fade-to-black and the text-card reporting all crew and passengers lost.
This HuffPo article describes the production as being fairly non-renumerative for the theatre: “Nobody gets paid much, and everyone hangs on to day jobs. Daniels works construction, Berger is in robotics. ” It characterizes the actors as being drawn to the production “not because they’re into the theater necessarily, but because they’re into the gear,” and says that the show’s “forensic accuracy” is counterbalanced by an “inescapable moral responsibility”, cautiously likening it to a memorial of sorts.
As I said, I have a special aversion to theater-folk, and was prepared to hate this from the get-go based on the Netflix reviews (the worse of which liken it to a “bad SNL skit”), as well as my admittedly-limited knowledge of aviation based on military history, “The Right Stuff”, and the autobiographical works of Chuck Yeager and Chuck Horner. After 5 minutes I was ready to give it up, and after 10 minutes I was really ready, but around the 15-minute mark I started to appreciate what the Pentagon saw in it. It’s damn good stuff. Though, as others have noted before me, if you’re in any way afraid of air-travel, you should for-sure steer the hell clear.