- Netflix Release Date: Feb. 18, 2022
- Director: Rory Kennedy
Downfall: The Case Against Boeing (Trailer)
On October 29, 2018, Indonesian Lion Air Flight 610 disappeared without a trace, according to initial reports. On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed six minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa International Airport. Both planes were Boeing 737 MAX models, and both crashes claimed the lives of everyone on board. In both cases, Boeing blamed the dead pilots for blatantly xenophobic attacks, rather than taking responsibility for the crashes. In order to compete with European aerospace company Airbus, Boeing insisted to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulators that the 737 MAX would not require additional pilot training, because pilot training is expensive. It was later discovered that Boeing’s financial corner-cutting was what caused the planes to crash. Pilots flying planes equipped with a brand new system known as MCAS were given zero training on how to operate the system, and hundreds of people from all over the world paid the price in their lives as a result. There is one connection made in the documentary Downfall: The Case Against Boeing that is accurate: it makes the connection between how Boeing’s corporate culture rapidly changed away from workers’ rights and toward Wall Street greed after it merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997 and the fatal crashes that occurred two decades later. Important safety positions were eliminated in the name of increased profits, and those at the top stopped listening to experts when they didn’t like what they were hearing, according to the report.
The fact that this didn’t happen sooner is a source of amazement. However, in a film titled Downfall, there is neither a material consequence for Boeing nor much of a final conviction on Boeing’s part from the point of view of the filmmakers. There are no indications that Boeing has taken any steps to change its culture of ignoring experts in its never-ending quest for profits, as has been reported. They have no reason to do so. Under capitalism, ruthless profit-seeking will always be celebrated, rather than discouraged or outlawed. As a result of his role in Boeing’s failure to prevent these unnecessary deaths, CEO Dennis Muilenburg resigned, but he did so in exchange for $62 million, which to my ears sounds more like a reward for bad behavior than punishment. When it comes down to it, there has been a complete lack of accountability for the Boeing crash deaths, and the film’s failure to highlight this fact only serves to add insult to injury.
It does an excellent job of presenting the facts in its case against Boeing through talking heads interviews, but it does little to indict the institution that allowed them to get away with it: the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). The United States government, which initially permitted Boeing to certify the airworthiness of the 737 MAX jets through the use of their own employees, is to blame. The Case Against Boeing is a typical talking-head documentary, but it is a useful source of information if you are writing a grade-school research paper on the basic logistics of the tragic crashes in question. With a little more transparency, it could have served as a powerful reminder that as long as we continue to live under the rule of a capitalist system dedicated to the imperialist project, the American government and corporations, particularly arms manufacturing companies, will always work together in the pursuit of profits, even if it means putting the lives of people all over the world in danger.