VOD film review: Copilot
Ivan | On 16, Sep 2021
Director: Anne Zohra Berrached
Cast: Canan Kir, Darina Al Joundi, Roger Azar
Where to watch Copilot online in the UK: BFI Player / Curzon Home Cinema / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
In the past 20 years, cinema has grappled with the tragedy of 9/11 and its aftermath in many different ways. Director Anne Zohra Berrached (24 Weeks) finds a new lens through which to reflect on the attacks by exploring the fictionalised life of one of the United 93 hijackers, Ziad Jarrah.
Here called Saeed (Roger Azar), we first meet the young Lebanese man when he crosses paths with medical student Asli (Canan Kir). She’s a science student, he’s a charismatic dental student, and they swiftly find they have a connection, falling into an intense love. But as the years go by, Saeed begins to spend more and more time away from Asli. His aim of becoming a dentist is replaced by training as a pilot, a red flag that doesn’t immediately alert Asli, as he takes her up into the skies with him, calling her his copilot.
That this is the title of film is a sign of where its strengths lie, as Asli struggles to then cope with the way Saeed changes. He becomes more secretive, disappearing on trips for several weeks and lecturing friends on Islam, while joining in heated debates about what counts as haram/forbidden in the religion. By the time the end credits arrive, his final destination feels inevitable, directed by history rather than giving us a window into his inner journey of radicalisation.
As an exercise in empathy, then, it’s not an overly successful effort, even though the film’s has noble intentions of trying to humanise and understand the hijackers and how they decided to do what they did. But Roger Azar’s performance certainly sells his relationship with Asli (Canan Kir), and Kir is excellent at conveying the uncertainty, fear and isolation felt by someone when their partner pulls away without explanation, as well as the blind devotion and loyalty that can still remain regardless – all of which is accentuated by the intimate, shaky camerawork. That exercise in empathy, then, isn’t strictly unsuccessful – it’s just with the character you don’t expect.