Downfall The Case Against Boeing is an even-handed, if not overly dramatic, 90-minute documentary airing on Netflix. This exposé from producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard is directed by Emmy winner and Oscar nominee Rory Kennedy.
– Downfall The Case against Boeing Review does not contain any spoilers
Downfall The Case against Boeing is More of a Polemic than an Investigative Documentary
It is strong enough that it may make you think twice before booking a flight on a 737 Max; it may make you think twice about flying at all. The documentary, Downfall The Case Against Boeing, is a chilling, infuriating and sad account of the events leading to — and after — the 2018 Lion Air crash in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the 2019 Ethiopian Airlines crash in Addis Ababa. Poor decisions and false assumptions by the Federal Aviation Administration and the company led to both crashes, killing 346 people.
Kennedy constructs her case as an episode of true-crime television — think Dateline meets Frontline meets The Sopranos. In place of interviews with airlines executives and government officials are surveillance videos, photographs and phone recordings of employees at Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration. These are interspersed with computer animations showing how supposedly minor plane changes cascaded into more significant problems.
The most potent material comes from interviews with family members of those killed — some sitting next to photographs of their loved ones — who say they find it hard to understand how this could happen. The last section of “Downfall” looks at the human cost of Boeing’s decisions.
The Flawed Design of the Boeing is Revealed in the Downfall Documentary
The documentary is a line-by-line examination of what went wrong with the 737 Max, which was grounded in 2019 after two crashes killed 346 people. It largely avoids assigning blame (although it does point out that the Federal Aviation Administration’s regulations have allowed the U.S. aviation industry to self-regulate for decades). Instead, it tries to show how a series of mistakes and misjudgments led to the plane’s development and its clearance by regulators.
There are many reasons to avoid assigning blame, not least because other organizations are still investigating the causes of the crash, and legal action against Boeing is building. The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to release its findings soon, and more suits may be filed as a result.
But Downfall deserves credit for avoiding the drama of a narrative that places blame elsewhere or offers up villains. Instead, it presents a clear overview of why the Max was developed in the first place and how Boeing got into trouble with it from start to finish.
What was Boeing’s Defense as Recounted in Downfall?
In the fall of 2019, Boeing executives were understandably desperate to regain the public’s confidence after two 737 Max jets crashed within five months, killing everyone on board.
But instead of being transparent about what had gone wrong and how it was being fixed, Boeing resorted to its old playbook: stonewalling, obfuscation and a seemingly endless parade of excuses that shifted blame to others.
Boeing tried to assure pilots that they would be comfortable flying the 737 Max once it had been retrofitted with software updates and then trained them in just a few hours.
They told the flying public not to worry; this was just a software fix. But a software fix couldn’t restore pilot confidence or erase the bitter taste left by Boeing’s handling of this crisis. The company may make some fine planes, but its culture is toxic, as shown in Downfall: The Case Against Boeing.
The Downfall Documentary is Ground-Breaking and Can Shake You Up!
It is not a deep dive into the technical issues contributing to the Boeing 737 Max’s fatal crashes. It does not offer a detailed explanation of how a single sensor malfunctioning caused flight computers to command the plane to rise, even when pilots were trying to bring it down.
Instead, Downfall presents a collection of disgruntled former Boeing employees, pilots and executives who describe a company that skipped safety steps and prioritized profit over safety.
While the story of the 737 Max is an example of how a single airplane can cause so much damage, this documentary is also a story of how a company that was once an American industrial icon — the largest exporter in the United States and one of the most valuable companies in the world — devolved into a place where profit, stock price and executive bonuses took precedence over safety.
Stream It or Skip It?
The documentary is an unnerving tragedy of errors, and it is captured in Downfall: The Case Against Boeing. It does not explore the broader context of what happened — for instance, the role of deregulation in aviation safety or the cozy relationship between regulators and airlines — but it provides a clear account of how Boeing mishandled the rollout of this flawed aircraft. Certainly a must-watch.
Downfall: The Case Against Boeing is streaming on Netflix.Follow us on Instagram & Facebook to keep yourself updated with the latest news and reviews.