Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Airborne Veers Off-Course: A Movie Review

*here be some spoilers.

Director: Dominic Burns.

Writer: Paul Chronnell.

Cast: Mark Hamill, Craig Conway, Billy Murray, Sebastian Street, Simon Phillips, Julian Glover, Alan Ford, Gemma Atkinson, Rita Ramnani, and Andrew Shim.

Chelsea Films is releasing Airborne across the United Kingdom on DVD July 30th. This is a film that puts a dozen passengers on a doomed flight across the Atlantic. One of their passengers is an ancient Chinese spirit that likes to possess the living. The other flight crew and trapped passengers are understandably shook up when the ghost of Chang starts offing characters via gory suicides. The action is almost laughable as the plot of a cursed vase threatens to ground this aircraft for good.

And, something strange begins to happen as you watch this film. If you are a United Kingdom film fan, then you might notice that director Dominic Burns has recruited a few familiar faces. Actor Simon Phillips starred in Jack Falls as a troubled private investigator; Burns also produced this feature. Also from Jack Falls are Alan Ford and Rita Ramnani. This film feels like a Jack Falls reunion initially. Then, pinup Gemma Atkinson from Night Wolf shows up and this reviewer was not sure if werewolves were going to emerge from the cargo hold or a vengeful hitman.

Many of these actors have paid their due in other United Kingdom indie productions and it is too bad that the story of Airborne does not allow the actors to reach new heights. Instead, bizarre plot points begin to emerge. Would a flight really cross the Atlantic with twelve or fewer passengers? There are over a hundred empty seats onboard. Also, is investigating a freezing cargo hold not hazardous to the crew's health? The average temperature in a cargo hold is 10 Celsius or less. Maybe the film crew thought that viewers would be too distracted with the hostage taking and robbery at 30,000' to notice any plot holes. There are a few thrills in the story. But, watching a passenger basically yell "Geronimo" as he jumps out of an aircraft to avoid spiritual possession just requires too much of a leap of faith to absorb.

The plot points could have simply focused on a killer let loose on this smallish aircraft. After all, there are only so many places to hide on an airplane. And, many of the thrills from this feature come from the claustrophobic setting. There is no escape for the characters once the aircraft leaves the ground. The mystery that is built early, with disappearing passengers, might have been enough. Yet, the addition of a plot point involving a cursed vase is very hard to digest. Even luminescent eyes from the possessed seem hokey.

With the possiblity of fear mostly removed, fans can only find triumph in laughter. Most of that laughter will come from the character Alan, played by Simon Phillips. Phillips seems to have the best lines as he performs an excellent paranoid neurotic routine. A drop of blood on the floor causes panic as most of Phillips' wit seems to be a nod to the stupefied viewers watching. Much of the acting is well done, overall.

There are some film elements that are not so excellent. Airborne clocks in at a measly seventy-two minutes. This film could easily have been released as a television movie with this sparse length. The silly plot has been mentioned. Meanwhile, there is just too much verbal jockeying from the characters to create for an entertaining time. When in doubt, shout! This seems to be the motto of the film. Unfortunately, there is not a unifying voice in this raucously crowd. Mark Hamill as an aircraft controller tries to bring some reason to the show, however. As well, a shaky camera held by director Burns does little to steady events unfolding onscreen.

Airborne could have flew higher if the film had stayed with the murder mystery. The introduction of an unbelievable subplot involving ancient Chinese feudal warlords and possession seems to ground the film's story. This viewer was hooked until the ghost got out of the bag. Then, this strange affair seemed to fall from the sky with characters acting in all sorts of bizarre ways. This flight never recovers and most indie film fans can feel free to veer away from this plane, which is ever going downwards.

Overall: 6 out of 10 (some plot holes, strange behaviours, good mystery early, good acting, solid use of confined space, too much verbal sparring).

More on Chelsea Films can be found at their fan page:

Chelsea Films on Facebook

 |  |  | 

Advertise Here - Contact me Michael Allen at 28DLA

Subscribe to 28 Days Later: An Analysis Email Subscription