Released: 18th February
Seen: 11th May
Downfall: The Case Against Boeing begins on 29 October 2018 when Lion Air Flight 610 took off from the Soekarno–Hatta International Airport heading for Depati Amir Airport, both of which are in Indonesia. The plane, a Boeing 737 Max 8, left the ground at 6:20 am with 181 passengers and 8 crew members on board.
At 6:33, the ground crew lost contact with the plane. By 7:30 it became clear that Lion Air Flight 610 was gone, it had crashed into the Java Sea shortly after losing contact with no survivors. An investigation began, with Boeing immediately blaming user error on the pilots and trying to sell that narrative as much as possible. It might’ve worked too… were it not for Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashing and killing 157 people just 5 months later.
Throughout Downfall: The Case Against Boeing the horrible events of these two crashes are explored in great detail, complete with genuinely terrifying digital recreations of what it would’ve looked like from inside the cockpit. We naturally see how Boeing tried to cover it up before learning about a magical little system known as MCAS, or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which is a safety system that was meant to help stabilize a plane but ended up making them fall to earth faster than a Magrathean sperm whale and a bowl of petunias.
It was very bad, that’s the short version, but it’s also incredibly technical to explain, which is part of why Downfall: The Case Against Boeing is such a fantastic documentary. They realise that the majority of the audience aren’t that well versed in the art of airplane maintenance and so they are very careful to lay out all the problems in the simplest terms possible.
They are so careful to explain this to the audience that they literally will just throw up diagrams and have big arrows point to the problem areas so you can quite easily understand just what went wrong with both flights and, in turn, slowly realise that all of it is because of the horrors of capitalism.
The amount of detail that Downfall: The Case Against Boeing goes into is staggering, it lays everything out from the crashes to the cover-up to the merger that started the downfall in Boeing’s quality control (complete with some brave as hell whistleblowers who used to work for the company) to the eventual senate hearing where Boeing is so clearly in the wrong that even Ted Cruz noticed.
It’s insane, it’s an insane story full of absolute jaw-dropping moments and it’s all laid out so clearly that it’s almost impossible to get lost along the way. You’re being handheld through a complicated aerodynamics failure and it’s absolutely fascinating and horrifying all at the same time. This film really does build a perfect case against Boeing as a company, laying out its flaws and deceptions all in chase of a higher stock price… and that stock price came at the cost of 337 people’s lives.
Downfall: The Case Against Boeing doesn’t shy away from that harsh reality, hell it shines the brightest light it can find in every little nook and cranny just making sure that every possible thing that Boeing did wrong is spelled out in as much detail as possible. It’s one of the most well-crafted documentaries you will find, it doesn’t hold back a single punch and it should probably be noted now that this will be one of the things that leads to a huge change in the industry… at least, we can hope for that.