Netflix’s documentary, Downfall: The Case Against Boeing by Rory Kennedy is a film that revisits two aviation accidents in a 19-weeks period and the cause behind them. One of the accidents was the crash of Indonesia’s Lion Air Flight 610 that killed 189 people onboard while the other was the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 that killed 157 passengers and crew.
Concise and straight to the point
Downfall: The Case Against Boeing is a fantastic documentary that gives a great, organized outlook into the root causes of the flight crashes without being repetitive or shallow. The storytelling is succinct and directly tackles the questions the audience may have on how the accidents happen. In this film, Rory Kennedy heavily used a lot of video recordings of television news and court hearings as well as snippets from official documents and emails to give the audience the experience of being there at the height of this case.
Aviation engineering design is a complex topic, but it is also at the heart of this case. Downfall manages to explain the technicalities in a digestible way to an amateur (like myself), allowing them to understand the causes that led to the crash. For instance, the documentary elucidates how the MCAS system endangers the flight while displaying what the pilots of those airplanes probably would have gone through seconds before the crash. The depiction was chilling.
Raises the issue of corporate culture
Downfall also gently brings us through the history of Boeing and how it slowly changed from an engineering-focused company to a revenue-generating machine vying to be successful in Wall Street. Several ex-employees were interviewed to give their perspective on how Boeing’s culture shifted significantly after the McDonnell Douglas merger. Management and employees started focusing on increasing the value of their share prices instead of safety and design. Besides that, concerns raised by employees were not welcomed and issues were concealed instead of discussed. Traditionally, good company culture was seen as a lever to attract potential hires and achieve employee retention. However, this case shows us that corporate culture is also about the company’s values and it could mean the downfall of a company (pun intended).
It may all seem very technical, but this documentary is not just a film that explains the case well. It also lets the audience feel the painful moments experienced by the family members of the victims. Having a victim’s father explaining how he had to relive the moment of his daughter’s death every day at the court hearing is heartbreaking to say the least. Garima Sethi, wife of Lion Air Flight 610’s captain also recounts how the public (which might have been partially fueled by Boeing) was blaming her late husband for the flight crash. Scenes like these reminds the audience to take a step back and thoroughly determine the cause of a problem before pointing the finger at anyone. It also makes you wonder how the corporate individuals in Boeing feel after knowing the impact of their decision to hide the truth about the MCAS.
All in all, Downfall: The Case Against Boeing is an impactful documentary that truly served its purpose well. It brings light to this case in a well-explained yet harrowing and thought-provoking manner. After watching this film, do you still dare to board a Boeing aircraft?