After the jaw-dropping plane crash sequence in the superb 2012 thriller "Flight," the action in the intimate docudrama "Charlie Victor Romeo," which brings to life — almost verbatim — the black-box transcripts from six actual aviation emergencies from the 1980s and '90s, can't help but pale in comparison.
That said, this forceful adaptation of the popular 1999 stage play created by Robert Berger, Patrick Daniels and Irving Gregory (they're also credited with the screenplay and perform here) remains a unique, unsettling experience.
Filmed in crisp, if nonessential, stereoscopic 3-D, "Charlie Victor Romeo" (that's NATO phonetic code for CVR, or "cockpit voice recorder") is undeniably stage-bound. It's a conceit directors Berger, Daniels and Karlyn Michelson commit to rather than attempt to surmount.
To that end, the film is shot on a single set — an airplane cockpit — and multi-purposes its small cast, which also includes Noel Dinneen, Debbie Troche, Nora Woolley and Sam Zuckerman, among the vignettes' various pilots and crew members. (No passengers are seen.) While the actors are thoroughly credible as they re-create each aircraft crisis in real time, using dense aeronautical jargon, exclusive casting per segment might have helped mitigate the film's repetitive, static nature.
Ultimately, the cause of each ill-fated flight is less crucial than one simple fact: The plane is probably going down. Though that thought alone may be enough to trigger one of our most common fears, the film's emotional conviction and strong sound design effectively compound the chill.
'Charlie Victor Romeo'
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.
Playing: At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times