After a small-town pilot mysteriously dies during flight, passenger Doug White is forced to land the plane to safety and save his entire family on board. Based on an astonishing true story of faith and survival, this film follows one man’s harrowing journey to save his family from insurmountable danger.
KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Based on a true story, (this film) will put you on the edge of your seat throughout its duration, with a compelling plot and sincere performances by Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham. It’s a film for aviation geeks and thriller fans, as well as general audiences.” See his full review below.
On a Wing and a Prayer By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
On a Wing and a Prayer, based on a true story, will put you on the edge of your seat throughout its duration, with a compelling plot and sincere performances by Dennis Quaid and Heather Graham. It’s a film for aviation geeks and thriller fans, as well as general audiences. My only advice: don’t watch this before you get on a flight!
On a Wing and a Prayer follows the story of Doug Smith (Dennis Quaid), a Louisiana pharmacist. On a family getaway, Smith hears of the death of his brother, a pilot, and is shattered to the point of questioning his faith in God. He is put to the test when, after the memorial services and as the Smiths are on their way home, the pilot of their private plane dies mid-air. Doug must pilot the plane to a safe landing and save his family from what seems like impending death, combating medical emergencies and a tropical depression….oh, and did I mention Smith has never flown for more than an hour before?
The cast of On a Wing and a Prayer dazzles. Dennis Quaid plays Doug Smith with conviction and honesty. In one of Quaid’s more serious performances (I don’t think he flashed his famous grin even once during the film), he takes on a paternal role that will have you spellbound. What I especially like about Quaid’s character is how unapologetically clueless he is at times; the film shows that even the “macho man” can be rendered helpless in an unfamiliar environment and stressful circumstances. But he never gives up. Heather Graham, who plays Smith’s wife, acts as the consummate copilot, remaining strong and supportive throughout the film.
I never saw Graham as an actress made for maternal roles, but there’s something uniquely warm about her portrayal in On a Wing and a Prayer. A good portion of the film is shot in the cockpit of a King Air plane, and the versatility of shots used is understandably limited. This leads to parts of the film not feeling as visually stimulating as they could: you’re staring at a medium closeup of Smith and his wife for forty minutes. In On a Wing and a Prayer, two kids enthusiastic about aviation track the progress of Smith’s flight, even biking to the runway to watch him land. This angle feels unnecessary in the film and leads to some confusion. On a Wing and a Prayer is certainly a dialogue-heavy film; the actors’ lines are what carry it. Still, the music could have been better utilized to accentuate the tension of the situation.
On a Wing and a Prayer promotes perseverance when times get tough. The film assures viewers, especially those who feel like all’s lost, that they have people in their corner who will support them at all costs, in the same way that the Florida air traffic control metaphorically held Doug’s hand throughout the whole harrowing experience. In terms of parental advisories, there are mentions of death, and Smith’s daughter suffers a violent allergic reaction onboard the plane. If you’re afraid of planes or of flying, this also might not be the best film for you.
I give On a Wing and a Prayer 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. On a Wing and a Prayer is available on Prime Video on April 7, 2023.