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'On a Wing and a Prayer': 5 Reasons You and Your Family Should Watch Amazon's Faith-Driven Thriller

, | April 11, 2023 | By

Faith-based films are on the rise, with two Christian movies — Jesus Revolution and His Only Son hitting the box-office Top 10 in recent weeks. Several other faith-conscious films are also on the horizon.

But families need not visit their local multiplex for an inspiring story, as faith-driven thriller On A Wing And A Prayer just premiered on Prime Video worldwide.

Starring Dennis Quaid (The Rookie, Frequency) and Heather Graham (Lost in Space), it begins with scenes in a church at a family funeral in Florida, as pharmacist Doug White (Quaid) grieves the loss of his brother.


Once the family — Doug, his wife, Terri, and their two teenage daughters — board a private plane headed home to Louisiana, the drama shifts into high gear.

After takeoff, their pilot suddenly dies. Doug, who had still been training in a single-engine plane, suddenly has to pilot a twin-engine aircraft and, in an hour-long drama that plays out in real time, land them safely.

With thrills and character-building collaboration, On A Wing And A Prayer has a few unexpected twists even though — like Quaid’s past inspirational drama Blue Miracle — audiences have a good idea where it’s headed.

The movie has been finding an audience, ranked as the #1 Prime Video film for four days running.

Here are five reasons why families should consider watching this film together.

Stellar acting and believable character moments carry the story.

Quaid, who has starred in blockbusters like The Day After Tomorrow, has a fatherly screen presence that draws viewers in. It’s a plus that he and co-star Graham have chemistry that works, as the husband-and-wife duo must rely on each other’s strengths.

The couple navigates several difficult moments, including the amateur pilot’s trouble getting his bearings over the Gulf of Mexico.

“I can’t see anything,” recalled real-life Doug White in a recent interview. “It’s a baby-blue sky going into a baby blue ocean ... You can’t tell up from down.”

A talented ensemble — including multiple air-traffic controllers, family members seen briefly in opening scenes, and a pilot in Connecticut (Jesse Metcalfe) whose actions prove critical to success — also help make the drama believable.

Action scenes and production values are top-notch.

This film has a production quality that outclasses most faith-based movies, thanks to the team behind it.

Producer Roma Downey has spearheaded more than a dozen TV series, notably A.D.: The Bible Continues, while director Sean McNamara is known for his hit film Soul Surfer, with impressive scenes of surfer Bethany Hamilton.

Viewers will feel like they’re inside the tight quarters of the King Air 200 aircraft — because the production team meticulously recreated it, then placed it on a steel-frame base for realistic movement.

The flight sequences seamlessly blend those tense interior scenes with footage that captures the storm conditions and careening landing attempts of the amateur pilot.

It’s a (mostly) true story. 

All the essential story beats in the film — the midair drama, White’s inexperience as a pilot, and people from multiple states providing assistance — are accurate according to multiple accounts.

Only a few minor subplots are invented, starting with one involving a couple of junior-high students (more on this in a bit).

In the movie, the death of Doug White’s brother, Jeff, deals a real blow to Doug’s faith.

“Maybe the stuff in church doesn’t mean what I thought it did,” says Quaid’s character.

White told me in a brief interview that his faith remained strong during this loss, though it makes sense the filmmakers wanted to give his character arc a spiritual angle.

The film also has a 10-minute sequence involving one of White’s daughters on-board being diabetic and needing a medical injection.

While it raises stakes in the tense drama, it’s another case of creative license, as White said neither of his daughters is diabetic.

Where it’s cringey, it makes for light family banter.

To break the nail-biting suspense, the film introduces a junior-high girl named Donna who’s obsessed with airplanes, and her friend Buggy.

In her hobby of watching live aircraft online and listening to air-traffic control, she spots White’s errant flight and follows in astonishment as the drama unfolds.

In a few scenes, the film cuts to her explaining the midair drama to her friend.

Screenwriter Brian Egeston said in a statement he wanted to “give the audience a technical perspective on what’s happening.”

Portions of it are educational. But then the two friends get on bikes to go watch the plane’s dramatic landing, which leads to a brief chase with airport security reminiscent of Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

It’s kind of a ridiculous subplot. But for families with pre-teens or teens who like to rag on cheesy movie moments, it could lead to a few laughs à la Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Christian faith is present and feels authentic.

Viewers see prayers expressed in several ways, from short desperate pleas in the moment, to prayers of gratitude among a group.

There are also scenes of the family sharing a BBQ meal with people experiencing homelessness in their community, and a key sequence set in a church.

Faith, in the providential hand of God guiding events, feels natural with these characters, which is rare for recent Hollywood films. In the flight recordings, which are available online, White speaks from the cockpit to air-traffic control, saying: “I’m in the good Lord’s hands flying this.”

Longtime members of Forsythe Church of Christ in Monroe, Louisiana, White and his family reportedly turned down earlier movie adaptation offers due to the faith factor.

“Everybody else told him [he] had to take God out of it,” said writer Brian Egeston. “I assured him that was the exact opposite of what I wanted to do. This is a story about faith and courage."

With a solid script, high production values, and talented actors who give it their all, this faith-driven film delivers a rare story that families can enjoy together.

Rated PG for peril and some language, On A Wing And A Prayer is streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Image: Dennis Quaid in ‘On a Wing and a Prayer’ on Amazon Prime Video/ Credit: Courtesy_of_Prime_Video_Boris_Martin__ AMAZON_CONTENT_SERVICES_LLC

Josh M. Shepherd covers culture, faith and public-policy issues for various media outlets. He and his wife are raising two children in Northern Virginia.

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