‘Anatolian Eagles’: Eagles with broken wings

‘Anatolian Eagles’: Eagles with broken wings

October 30, 2011, Sunday/ 14:28:00

“Anadolu Kartalları” (Anatolian Eagles) is Turkish director Ömer Vargı's ode to Turkey's Republic Day.

The film's release date comes off as a carefully strategized celebration that makes the film suitable for exhibition in the halls of the Turkish Air Force as opposed to movie theaters. This is a body of work that takes on the form of a promotional film to encourage young Turks in aspiring to become fighter pilots. Just take a look at the beautifully groomed and athletic actors who look like they have popped out of an Uncle Sam ad campaign for the military; their chiseled faces do not reflect the accessibility of normal human beings, but statues to be idolized.

This audiovisual work reminds one of Tony Scott's “Top Gun” -- the only difference being that “Top Gun,” no matter how cheesy and shamelessly patriotic it was, possessed a storyline and an incredible craftsmanship of cinematography and editing.

The reason that such an emotionally juvenile film as “Top Gun” is still a classic is because when we watch it, we ourselves can grasp the tension of pilots in the air fighting against the assumed enemy.

In “Anatolian Eagles,” the script written by Hakan Evrensel does have some interesting moments regarding the psychology of flying and the risk of such a strenuous job, however, there is a lack of any kind of military conflict in the script, and when the uninspired ensemble acting is added to the equation, this film makes you think that real-life pilots deserve a better film depicting their personal stories and struggles.

My main problem with the film is that it is rendered in a fashion to please PG-13 audiences so that it won't ouch anyone's nerves or get any intelligent adult challenged in any sort of way -- politically, socially or emotionally.

We're just watching a bunch of innocent-faced youngsters with no apparent inner conflicts, emotions, passions or rivalry move through their pilot training like they are kennel dogs. Even National Geographic Wild appropriates more emotions to their animal subjects.

The main character is Ahmet Onur (Çağatay Ulusoy), an incredibly handsome and air-headed boy who has programmed himself from an early age to become a pilot. The only tangible problem he has is with his musician girlfriend, Burcu (Hande Subaşı, who displays a rather morose performance either due to her lack of motivation or her pretentious dialogue), whom he ignores throughout his training. It's not like he's moved to Timbuktu, the boy is training in İzmir's Çiğli, for God's sake, while the girl resides in İstanbul, and the funny thing is that they both act like he's going off to war. The dialogues are so unbelievably plastic that it is amazing how the actors agreed to speak them in the first place; the minute that Ahmet is accepted to flight training, the girl utters something along the lines of: “You will be in the sky, I will be on land. How is this ever supposed to work out?” Obviously the girl has watched too many soap operas and forgot to get some pointers from the wives of other pilots. Mind you, this contrived romantic conflict is supposed to be the skeleton of the film.

The other watered-down relationship that got me fuming is the one between Ayşe (Özge Özpirinççi, who is the only actor trying to give a genuine performance) and that of Mustafa (Alpay Atalan). Now these two pilot trainees are supposed to be in a romantic relationship, but I didn't even realize that they were involved until Mustafa proposes to Ayşe because they treat each other like androgynous life forms from another planet. What kind of a censored and pretentious world are we living in that allows romance to be treated like it's a random acquaintance between two people who consider giving each other high-fives as intimacy?

Throughout the two hours we watch our pilot trainees using the high-tech equipment of the Turkish Air Force and parade in unison across the military bases while cruising through their lives without much ado. You would imagine that when one of the trainees is deemed unfit for flying he would have a small nervous breakdown after all his hard work and years of training, but no, the boy comes back to his senses within one day. What does it take for anyone to reveal a genuine emotion throughout this film?

Cinematographer Uğur İçbak's high-contrast color-palette and his framing that reminds one of Leni Riefinstahl's “The Triumph of the Will” works glamorously on land and thus makes the film bearable to watch; however, the aerial photography and editing lack finesse and skill -- the planes gliding through the sky are utterly boring to watch, even in the last climactic scene where Ahmet's life is in danger.

One wonders why such an acclaimed and respected director such as Vargı (“İnşaat,” “Her Şey Çok Güzel Olacak”) would ever agree to film such a lifeless story that is more of a depiction of pilotless drones than humans.

One can only assume that the logistic and monetary patronage of the Turkish Air Forces did not look upon kindly to the possibility that Vargı or his scriptwriter Evrensel might indulge in any challenging, distressing or explicit element that had an ounce of introspection regarding what being a military pilot really entails.

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