All right, it's ninety minutes of birds flying around. But what makes Winged Migration so much better than your ordinary nature documentary is its painterly cinematography and its jaw-droppingly awesome camerawork. Using a number of remote-controlled cameras, Perrin actually takes the audience right up into the air with migratory birds in flight. The cameras fly along inches from the beaks of geese, pelicans, parrots, penguins, you name it. You only wish you could see it in IMAX.
This never-before-tried approach, interspersed with perfectly framed long shots of flocks of birds soaring in front of full moons, Saharan dunes, East European factories, Arctic glaciers and Parisian cityscapes, makes for an intense visual trip, one that never gets old despite the limitations of the material (migration, yippee). Perrin and crew keep finding new things to do as they follow their subjects around, and - aside from a French-accented voiceover that pops up every five minutes or so to give us ten seconds of narration - let pleasant new-agey music and the sounds of the birds themselves (thanks to an amazing sound editing team) provide the soundtrack.
Winged Migration isn't really educational, nor is it exactly a documentary. It is a work of art, as much as Perrin's previous nature film, Microcosmos, which plunged us into the secretive world of bugs. Ornithophobes will stay away, but the rest of you should catch this film in theatres, where it belongs - not on the Discovery Channel.