Documentary Review: Richard Branson’s ‘Don’t Look Down’

If you have a severe fear of heights, Don’t Look Down might not be the documentary for you. I have a minor (non-debilitating) fear when I am actually up high, but not when I see video from up high; if this you or you have no fear of heights, you might enjoy Don’t Look Down. It tells a couple stories related to Richard Branson and his Virgin Airlines told beautifully by Branson himself as well as his partners, associates, and family members.

First up is a brief, but entertaining story about how Virgin Airlines began. It is a whimsical little story that I could not do as much justice as Branson. Suffice it to say, it involves a flight cancellation, a chalkboard, and a woman. Then the real work began with limited funding for a one-plane airline.

To get promotion for his new airline, as well as challenge himself, Branson teamed with Per Lindstrand to fly a hot air balloon across the Atlantic Ocean. Using news footage and first-hand accounts from others involved, the film details the journey from take-off to touchdown. It is a fascinating journey of which some younger people (35 or under) may not have known. You get to see Branson learn to skydive, as a backup measure if something goes wrong with the balloon. And things do go wrong, which are fairly well chronicled along with some emotional recollections from Branson; though any dramatic undertones are downplayed since they are telling the stories (we know they survive even when the threat of death is real).

A few years after the first balloon flight (I won’t spoil the outcome for those that are unfamiliar with the story), they decide to try again. This time crossing the Pacific Ocean around the time of Desert Storm more for the challenge than the publicity; though they did want publicity of course. This second trip did not get as much attention due to the war, but it is no less interesting than the first. They again had troubles and nearly died. And again they were able to chronicle enough to make for a thrilling documentary which I still do not want to spoil.

Their trips seem like fun if you know what you are doing and you are prepared for the potential problems. Watching this documentary could add a bucket list item for many people… or turn them away from hot air balloons forever. I am not sure which side I fall on, probably somewhere in the middle, but I enjoyed their inspirational stories and would highly recommend this documentary.

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