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On a Wing and a Prayer

average rating is 3 out of 5


Brian Penn


Posted on:

Apr 18, 2023

Film Reviews
On a Wing and a Prayer
Directed by:
Sean McNamara
Written by:
Brian Egeston
Dennis Quaid, Heather Graham

The disaster movie is firmly rooted in all things aviation; a protagonist in the cockpit trying to save the day whilst the passengers contemplate their mortality. The drama is self-contained in a claustrophobic environment and the realisation there are no escape routes. A structure made of steel, aluminium and glass is airborne but has to be landed safely. Recent efforts like ‘Flight’ and ‘Sully: Miracle on the Hudson’ have focused on professional pilots landing an aircraft using their skill, experience and raw nerve. On a Wing and a Prayer shifts the compass to a complete novice at the joystick and air traffic control carefully talking him down.


Doug White (Dennis Quaid) is due to fly back from his brother’s funeral and charters a private King Air aircraft. His god fearing wife Terri (Heather Graham) and their two daughters are the passengers. Mid-flight pilot Joe Cabuk (Wilbur T. Fitzgerald) has a heart attack and Doug has to take the controls. With nothing more than a handful of flying lessons behind him he is reliant on the crackling reception from air traffic control. Terri acts as co-pilot and tries to decipher the dashboard in front of them. As their descent proceeds they are confronted with various issues that make the ride even bumpier than could be imagined; but will they make it down in one piece?


Some may snort with derision at the familiarity of a tried and trusted formula. But what raises this film above the others is a story based on true events. There are no false heroics here; this man is on the verge of multiple nervous breakdowns. Doug’s reactions are completely natural and believable. Terri has complete faith in god and her husband but is secretly in the depths of despair. Not only is he trying to save his own life but that of his wife and two children. A viewer might consider how they would react in that situation. And truth be told it would be something along the lines portrayed in this film. This is a powerful tale of a Louisiana pharmacist who was confronted with the mother of all nightmares. It earns an extra star for having the guts to be human.

About the Film Critic
Brian Penn
Brian Penn
Amazon Prime
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