In a landscape teeming with documentaries, Downfall: The Case Against Boeing manages to stand out from the crowd with a spine-chilling tale of corporate negligence, greed and the tragedies that ensued as a result.
As my coverage of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival continues, my attention was drawn toward another documentary. Downfall: The Case Against Boeing is a Netflix documentary directed by Rory Kennedy that premiered at Sundance ahead of its February 18 debut on the streaming service. As the title indicates, the documentary focuses on the case against Boeing in the wake of the twin devastating crashes that saw two 737 Max airplanes crash and kill everyone aboard in late 2018 and early 2019 respectively.
Downfall: The Case Against Boeing is similarly structured to other documentaries that cover real life events. The story can be broken down as follows: Part 1 documents what happened (the airplane crashes) and the immediate aftermath; Part 2 jumps back in time to reveal how we got to this point; Part 3 then returns to the present and ties the conclusions of the case together.
I thought of it as the director assembling a giant puzzle for the audience; laying out the pieces in such a way that the story comes together bit by bit, pacing things along until we come to the same conclusions as the investigators in the story. And in the case of this documentary, the conclusions about Boeing and its role in the crashes are overwhelmingly damning.
If you were not familiar with the technicalities involved in either crash, then this documentary is going to be an eye-opener for you. Rory Kennedy presents a tale of corporate negligence that is equal parts spine-chilling and horrifying, not least because there are multiple interviews, examples, and recordings to back all of it up. As many of the interviews are with relatives of people who died in the crashes, much of the documentary is a roller-coaster ride of emotions as you can feel the pain of loss from all of these people who are suffering because a corporation decided to value profits over common sense.
This is one of those documentaries designed to get people angry and talking. I know I felt an almost unbearable sense of anger as the credits rolled and I’m sure other viewers will feel the same once they see this documentary for themselves. Aside from anger, this story also forces you to rethink everything you thought you knew about the safety of air travel. We’ve taken flying for granted for so long that it’s painfully uncomfortable to sit here and think: Am I really safe when I fly? And yet, that’s what this documentary asks us to do, and after watching this story, viewers may not like the answers they come up with.
In a time where corporations and public figures are facing increasing demands to be held accountable for their actions, I can only imagine that Downfall: The Case Against Boeing has the potential to focus renewed scrutiny on the company and the toxic work culture that the documentary exposed.
Rory Kennedy has done a masterful job shining a light on the problems that led to these devastating crashes and I can only hope that this documentary spurs on conversations that won’t go away until the issues are truly resolved.