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The Crimson Wing

The Crimson Wing

Review by Jack Foley

THE Crimson Wing marks the first film from Disney’s revived wildlife arm, Disneynature, and is a frequently breathtaking affair that follows the life cycle of one and a half million flamingos as they visit northern Tanzania’s Lake Natron each year to breed.

Co-directed by Matthew Aeberhard and Leander Ward, the film succeeds in capturing both the danger and beauty of this isolated environment, as well as the triumph and tragedy of the flamingos’ attempts to create new life.

Lake Natron is a difficult and extremely inhospitable landscape, dictated to by the still active Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano, which serves to create the platform for the birds’ unique breeding requirements.

Aeberhard and Ward follow the flamingos from mating rituals through to the birth of their offspring, capturing in vivid detail the magical early moments in a chick’s life as it hatches and then learns to walk and fly.

But it doesn’t shy away from some of the harsher realities of nature, either, and scenes involving attacks by predators, or hatchlings succumbing to the dangers of Natron’s physical environment are difficult to watch.

Throughout, however, the flamingos provide a fascinating guide and are captured in all their beauty – whether in formation flight across Natron’s mirror-like water, or spreading their wings for courtship rituals.

Natron, too, features just as prominently with its peculiar and rarely visited environment as much a character itself… coupled by some awe-inspiring shots of Ol Doinyo Lengai erupting.

And a soundtrack by The Cinematic Orchestra provides a near-perfect accompaniment that manages to reflect the various moods of the film without becoming too intrusive.

The only two minor criticisms stem from Mariella Frostrup’s narration, which opts for mysticism over fact a little too often, and the final 10 minutes, which feel like padding and repeat much of what’s come before without any further revelations.

In all other senses, however, The Crimson Wing should appeal to anyone smitten by March of the Penguins and those who usually get their wildlife fix from the travels of David Attenbrough.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 77mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: March 15, 2010