Picks and Pans Review: The Taking of Flight 847: the Uli Derickson Story

updated 05/02/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/02/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

NBC (Mon., May 2, 9 p.m. ET)

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The Taking of Flight 847 is based in part on interviews with stewardess Uli Derickson done for PEOPLE by Jim Calio, then a writer for the magazine and now co-executive producer of the movie. Which doesn't mean I have to like the show. It means only that I would have cause for discomfort if I disliked it. But halfway through, I knew I could rest easy. This is a good and gripping movie. It makes "docudrama" a respectable word again. The show does not try to artificially overdramatize the already dramatic story of the 17-day, 8,500-mile hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in June 1985. Instead, with a cool, journalistic attention to fact and detail, it simply tells what life was like on that horrible flight—and that makes for one taut and terrifying movie. I can't remember seeing better acting from Lindsay Wagner, who rises to the requirements of a very difficult role. As Derickson, the purser on the flight, she must calm and comfort both the passengers and the hijackers and save lives without coming off like some unearthly angel; Wagner does it well. She also has to speak many of her lines in German because that's what Derickson spoke with the chief hijacker; Wagner not only speaks it well (she learned how to speak the language for the movie), but also manages to convey the meaning of these lines with her acting alone. She has a few amazing scenes, like one in which she is forced to ease the terrorists' minds with a sad but soothing German song about the heimatlos, people without a country. Wagner is supported admirably by Eli (War and Remembrance) Danker, who does a great job with the equally tricky role of the chief hijacker. But this is entirely Wagner's show.

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