DVD Review: Airborne
Review by Keri O’Shea
Ah, Mark ‘Luke Skywalker’ Hamill. From “a galaxy far far away” to a busy career doing voiceovers for games and kids’ TV, one might wonder what it was about the Airborne project which drew you back to the movies – and definitely to the horror genre – for the first time in such a long time. Sure, there is much to commend the ‘flight in peril’ genre; from snakes to gremlins to zombies to, err, ice queens, film and TV fans have learned that anything which can go wrong, will go wrong when you’re in the air. However, it pays to focus. Snakes on a Plane wouldn’t have had its edge if there had been lots of other threats to compete with the snakes. If the infamous Twilight Zone, Shatner-bothering boggart of ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet’ hadn’t even been noticed because something else had been going on in the cabin, he’d have been feeling pretty red-faced, sat out there on the wing like a complete dick. This is the major issue I had with Airborne: a film so far from content with one threat, it decided that it would cram in as many as possible, and in so doing, dissipated them all.
The film opens just prior to a red-eye flight from the UK to New York, Atlantic flight 686 (and, incidentally, haven’t I seen that poster somewhere before?)
This being good old Blighty, even a largely deserted flight must surely have a few ‘ard Cockney bastards calling people ‘slags’ and telling them to ‘sort it aht’ and so on. Seriously, I’ve lived in the UK all my life, and I’ve only ever encountered these people in two places: in movies, and gurning out of the back of endless books on The Krays. Anyway, all the major social groups of the British Isles are shown boarding the flight: gangsters, squaddies, a vicar, and some tarts, as well as a handful of others. Oh, and a man with some occult-looking etchings on a pad of A4. In what definitely is an accurate depiction of a British phenomenon, however, a massive storm is threatening to stop all remaining flights for the night. The big star Mark Hamill is actually a flight controller (and thus this is a cameo role, really) and he finally makes a judgement call that the flight can go ahead, despite the weather. A handful of people therefore prepare for take-off.
So far, then, we have: a volatile group of travellers, extremely adverse weather conditions, and a man with some rather curious sketches in his hands. Quickly added to this broiling-pot is the knowledge that there is Something Rare in the hold with them – a Chinese vase. Oh, and it looks as though there’s a killer on the loose, because even the scant number of travellers are being offed. One man with a sensitivity to knowing which direction the plane is heading says the plane isn’t going to New York. And are the flight attendants all that they seem?
Too many questions, too many possibilities for where all of this is going – and in trying to tie everything together, Airborne feels horribly rushed. All of these disparate threads, which of course have to be enunciated by a very small number of characters, mean that some of the characters don’t feel believable at all. It isn’t true of all of them; Simon Philips as Alan has some warmth to him, and when the dialogue has enough time to blossom, it humanises and improves the impression made by the key players here. Airborne does have some sequences which can boast wit and humour. What made it very difficult for me to feel won over by the motley crew here, though, was the early introduction to yet another gang of cockney gangsters spouting the same old platitudes, and – sorry to say this, as it is a very personal reaction – but the arrival of hard-man Brit actor Billy Murray on the scene filled me with dread. I’ve only just recovered from Strippers vs. Werewolves, for pity’s sake. I’m not ready. Add to all of this a significant number of logic fails – because yes, even fantastical situations would be expected to follow some rules – and inexplicable plot development, and Airborne cracks under the weight of its own storylines. A small cast and a confined space needs careful handling. Although there is some promise here (the outside shots of the plane are good, the musical score is weighty and polished) sometimes the old saying that ‘less is more’ rings very true.
Airborne is released to DVD by Chelsea Films on 30th July 2012.