Blending interviews, archival news footage, animation, and staged recreations, Fly Colt Fly look at one of the biggest folk hero criminals in American history does a fine job explaining how one teenager who posed a concern to many could become an icon to others. It shows sympathy for a young man who no one really ever understood beyond the black and white nature of the crimes he committed.
Filmmakers Andrew and Adam Gray look into the life and crime spree of adrenaline junkie Colton Harris-Moore, who back in 2010 went on a spree of robberies targeting island communities and vacation homes. He was so prolific and brazen that he would set up incredibly elaborate ways of evading capture, sometimes by evading entire SWAT teams that had been set up to look for him and by stealing and flying several planes (that he taught himself to fly) for fast getaways.
Regardless of what one thinks of Colton’s exploits, The Gray’s take an in-depth look at how one criminal can capture the consciousness of a region and spread out to the rest of the country and world. Colton’s achievements are made out to be impressive (and they certainly are), but the young man is never let off the hook. That balance between showing Colton as a criminal and as a kid that’s really just starved for attention and fighting for survival is a hard thing to really have play out when no one ultimately knows or understands any finite reasons as to why he did the things he did. Most of what Colton did was driven by the need to survive and the need to alleviate boredom, and while it’s interesting to see how people (particularly those from the Seattle area who knew of Colton’s exploits before he became a media sensation) the film is more interesting in speculating as to what Colton thought of himself.
Outside of narration from people being interviewed to give context to a particular situation, the almost wordless live action and animated recreations feel like clips from different psyches. The almost mythological feeling of the animated sequences help to represent how outsiders saw Colton, as a brash young man who will steal your car and flip you off with an arrogant kind of smile. The live action sequences, however, feel closer to how Colton must have seen himself and the crushing loneliness he must have felt being on the run for so long.
The interviews offer as much insight as they can, but part of Colton’s allure was just how much of an enigma he remained until a fateful boat chase in The Bahamas led to his capture. Talks with some police officers and local news reporters who covered the story since the beginning offer the best insight, with the more anecdotal talks with people who encountered Colton on his travels filling in the gaps where information wasn’t as easy to come by. Like any great folk story, there are gaps in the narrative that don’t make sense, but the Gray brothers do their duty by explaining just how this all could have happened in the first place.