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There are moments during ‘Flight 666’ that cause a very, very genuine response of stunned disbelief at what is laid bare by Sam Dunn and Scott McFadyan’s (of ‘Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey’ fame) all-seeing documentarian’s eyes. It’s there in full strength when the epic, spectacular set pieces used in each and every live performance leap out at the audience from the mammoth cinema screen.
It hits even harder at the magnificent sight of Ed Force One, Iron Maiden’s very own customised Boeing passenger plane (complete with beautifully lurid Eddie decals), soaring over the mountains ranges of South America in all its evil glory. This is a band, shots like these seem to say, that dares you to doubt that they haven’t achieved all this with no support whatsoever besides their fans worldwide.
It is endlessly endearing to think that Iron Maiden have attained all this glorious success and acclaim out of pure hard graft, endless touring and pure, indomitable will. In the world of today, where a band’s success is measured purely by the number of friends on their Myspace page, the continual reminder made by the documentary that Maiden have had next to no mainstream support in their 30+ years never stops being astounding.
More than any other documentation of Maiden’s career (and there have indeed been a fair few over years), ‘Flight 666’ is a testament to the devotion the band have inspired all across the planet. Headbangers who hold the notion of heavy metal fandom as being more akin to a community of believers fill the movie to bursting point, and to see them cling so dearly to the ray of light that Iron Maiden brings to their lives is more awe-inspiring than anything else in the film.
Some of them turn out in legions to greet (read: mob) the band the second Ed Force One touches ground in their nearest airport, and barely five minutes of the run time go by with a shot of someone showing off a home-made banners, or else cradling a signed t-shirt like they’ve just chanced upon the Holy Grail. But especially think of the heart-warming sight of one fan in Costa Rica, weeping openly and sending up ecstatic prayers of thanks for what he’s just seen. Forget every other magical documentary moment you might have seen – that is one sight that must surely rank as one of the greatest in all of filmmaking.
Elsewhere, ‘Flight 666’ impresses with the admirable candidacy with which the band are depicted. What’s presented of the band is far from sugar-coated; no frustrations with the unending lack of privacy around the keener fans are edited out of the narrative, no hitches in the militantly planned and executed tour left unmentioned for the sake of the band’s image. The frank and honest attitudes taken in the extensive interviews dotted through the film are also a pleasant counterpoint to all the good-humoured irreverence of the icons hamming it up on screen – drummer Nicko McBrain and his cheekily pointed sarcasm get the biggest laughs of all.
And of course, no Iron Maiden film would ever be complete without a plentiful dose of their trademarked metal brilliance, and ‘Flight 666’ has more than its fair share of Maiden standards, running the gamut from the galloping charge of ‘Number of the Beast’ and ‘The Evil That Men Do’ up to the glorious crowd-led epics ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ and ‘Fear of the Dark,’ all of which take on glorious life on the silver screen and make their DVD-only companions of previous years seem pitiful by comparison.
Both a masterwork of documentary filmmaking on the part of Dunn and Macfadyan and one of the most intimate looks into the life of the biggest metal bands on earth to be found in their prodigious filmography, ‘Flight 666’ is head-and-shoulders above every flimsy ‘behind-the-scenes’ inserts found on any number of hastily released metal docs of late – and nuts to you, you poor unlucky soul, if you didn’t have the pleasure of it blasting out at you at full volume on the one night it was shown in cinemas. Up the Irons!!!