18 May 2020 | echobaseuk
A tribute rather than a documentary
More than a in-depths documentary this feels rather like a tribute to the poor community of Paradise in California, devastated by the Camp Fire in 2018 in which 85 people lost their lives and more than 18000 homes destroyed (not to mention the hundreds or thousands of acres of forests burnt to the ground).
Ron Howard turns to documentary (not for the first time: only in the last few years he did one on the Beatles and Pavarotti) but like often in his movies, he manages to produce a handsome, properly crafted piece of work and yet a rather unmemorable one too (yes there are exceptions: Frost/Nixon is great, Rush was good, I have a soft spot for Cocoon and Apollo 13... but the Dan Brown film are really terrible).
The beginning is probably the best thing in the film. Dash-cam and mobile footage shot by residents trying to escape the fire is edited together to create a real sense of what must have been like to feel trapped in the blaze with smoke so dark to turn day into night. It's claustrophobic and terrifying. Beyond that, Howard chooses to stick with the victims throughout the whole documentary, preferring to show their grief and their determination to rebuild rather than exploring any of the real issues at stake here, even when big subjects come up (like global warming or the reasons beyond the fast spread of the fire). It's a very narrow-vision point of view of such a massive scale disaster that it feels a bit like a wasted opportunity. Emotions runs high (though some are heavy handed and superfluous to the main story), and you may even shed a few tears (that's not hard to do when dealing with such a disaster) but beyond that I found it a bit frustrating and slightly superficial.