Narrated by Gabriel Byrne, Flight from Death takes viewers through what initially comes off as a depressing realization that all living things die (as humans, we are possibly the only living organism that can recognize the inevitability of death), but turns around and becomes an interesting feature on human behavior and details some interesting studies by a group of scholars who follow the work of Ernest Becker, Pulitzer winning author of Denial of Death. One of the talking heads in the film, Sheldon Solomon humorously describes a human as a "breathing piece of defecating meat", as he is discussing the fact that we are aware of our demise.
Throughout the feature, footage from around the globe showing death and potential death is constant, as well as the discussion from the psychologists who discuss topics ranging from war to our desire to live as long as possible and the actions we take when reminded of death. One study discussed in the film takes two groups of people, and gives them a questionnaire one group has subtle reminders of death while the other does not. In every case, the group who was reminded of death reacted in a slightly more hostile way than the group who did not. One similar study using judges as the group showed that the ones reminded of death were much harsher in their punishments to even a trivial offender.
So how did I feel when watching this feature? Well, I didn't view it as life changing as it has been billed, but I did find it very interesting to realize that yes, in fact humans aren't that different than other animals with out "fight or flight" response to danger. The feature was actually entertaining, and for the 85 minute running time I felt it was the perfect length to get its message across but not too long where the viewer becomes bored of the topic and their mind starts to wander to other topics.
How's it look:
Flight from Death is presented in a full frame format on this DVD release. The quality of the footage varies greatly throughout the feature as it uses a lot of stock library footage ranging from shuttle launches to riots in football stadiums. The shots that are new and not stock footage are detailed enough to get the point across and but even then the quality ranges from sharp and detailed to grainy and washed out.
Overall the video quality is not the highest with grain quite prevalent even in new footage, but it's not a Hollywood style film so that can be expected.
How's the Sound:
The audio option is limited to the two channel soundtrack only, but because this is not an action movie where the sound plays a huge role, the limited option more than satisfies this reviewer's ear. Because a large portion of the film featured people talking, it was more important that they came across clean, clear and crisp which they did, I never found myself looking to use the non-existent sub-titles because the audio mix was spot on.
The musical choices for the film were also very well chosen and fit the tone of the documentary very well. According to Shen and Bennick, they enlisted the help of friends for the musical selection, and to me it paid off quite well.
A featurette on the Making of Flight from Death which runs about 28 minutes contains the usual behind the scenes information such as the filmmakers discussing why they chose to make this film as well as discussions with Gabriel Byrne. Aside from other information like how the editing process went to the musical choices within the film, this featurette contains bloopers from the "talking heads" during their interviews, which helped make them seem a little more human.
A group of 5 deleted scenes are also included that all told run around fifteen minutes and include a couple of segments with Sam Keen, and an interesting one medical advances that can further the life span and people, and even cheat death altogether thanks to procedures like cryonics.
A feature length commentary with Shen and Bennick is also included, they comment on not only the scenes in the movie, but also on why they chose to make the movie and their own insights into the film throughout. Overall it's actually an enjoyable commentary as these two really are passionate about their film and they show how much so by the enthusiasm they have during this commentary.
Rounding out the special features are production stills and the trailer for Flight from Death.
Flight from Death was not quite the superb piece of documentary filmmaking I expected it to be, based on the quotes on the cover of the DVD, but it still was a very good documentary featuring some interesting topics and discussion about a topic that as a culture we are very hesitant to discuss. I feel that is definitely worth watching once, and because of that I am going to give this a very solid rental recommendation.