Airborne (2012)

OCTOBER 23, 2012


I hate when a giant blunder early on keeps me at bay for an entire movie. I might have been able to enjoy Airborne a little more if not for a ridiculous setup, where a huge storm is coming in and yet they allow one final plane to take off - despite the fact that it's as big as one of those Airbus planes and there are only like 15 people on board. So they're cancelling every flight, yet they'll send this huge beast into the sky with a passenger list that could fit on one page with a giant font? Even if the weather was perfect it seems like they'd just tell these folks to wait for another flight rather than lose so much dough - there's no way the ticket sales were enough to cover the operation.

Otherwise, it's not too bad. The basic concept is pretty cool: people start disappearing on the plane, and tensions flare between those who panic about their missing seat-mates, and those who want to keep order and (among the flight attendants) exert their authority. So it's sort of like a slasher on a plane, which hasn't been done to my knowledge, and that's cool, even though the murders are occurring off-screen and there HAS to be something more complicated than that, because even with the idiotic notion that this plane would be flying, it wouldn't make any sense.

Finally, around the 50 minute mark, the movie described on the back of the DVD kicks in - the pilots are found dead and something is unleashed on the plane that turns people into psychos. I'm not sure why it took so long to actually get started, but what follows is pretty exciting - the plane lacks a pilot (autopilot can only do so much), there are a pair of would-be thieves attempting to hijack some precious cargo, and there's a virus of some sort that's infecting people at random. Add in the people on the ground (led by Mark Hamill) and you have a solid horror/thriller hybrid; the 28 Weeks Later version of one of those Airport movies from the 70s (or, OK, Turbulence).

But why do they take so long getting there? The people disappearing stuff takes up an entire act, when it should have been 5 minutes or so, tops. Obviously the people ARE still on the plane (or at least, their bodies are), so why do they delay the inevitable by having people argue about where they could be, if they were ever on the plane to begin with, etc. This isn't Flightplan, and Christ, even THAT got on with what it was really about quicker than this. In comparison, the reveal of the killer virus comes only like 2 minutes after the thieves reveal themselves - they out themselves and their plan, and then realize that both of them thinks that the other was responsible for another death on the plane. If I were to "Minute by Minute" this movie, the first 50 minutes would be a bunch of nearly identical descriptions, and then the next 30 would seem like I was skipping 5 minutes at a time.

As for Hamill, well, whatever. His role is kind of pointless; I get the need to show what the reaction is to the guys on the ground, but it's nowhere near as interesting as what's happening up there. I remember Air Force One doing a good job with this scenario by having the drama about whether or not the Vice President should be in charge, but otherwise these movies should stay in the air as often as possible. It's a shame he wasn't on the plane - since their actual ages don't matter, he would have been great as the guy who owned the mysterious vase that causes all the problems.

So I'm at a loss. On one hand, the movie botches a cool idea and makes it impossible to buy into its reality with such an implausible setup (did I mention that one of the flight attendants is a last minute substitute? And that the person he was replacing didn't think much of it? Not a lot of security concerns on this airline, I guess). On the other, the final 25 minutes are exciting, even kind of "awesome" when one guy takes charge and realizes what has to be done (think Deep Impact), and even though the pacing of the reveals is terrible, at least it's not always easy to tell where the movie is going or what is really going on. The plane set is also impressive, and while there aren't enough people on it, they're all fairly well characterized, with a nice mix of "types": an old guy, a pair of military dudes, a mobster and his bodyguards, some horny college kids, a weirdo...

I do know this much - there is no need to buy this DVD. Even if you enjoyed it more than me I can't see why you'd ever want to watch it again, since much of its merit is derived from simply not knowing what was happening and whether or not the problem would be contained - there are no great action scenes, amazing FX work, or hilarious characters that you'd want to revisit over and over. And it's as barebones as they come; the menu offers PLAY and SCENES - not even a subtitle option on this disc. Redbox would probably be your best bet - it'll be cheap, you'd have no need to keep it more than a day, and you won't have the spoiler-filled, misleading back of the box synopsis to lead you astray. Win-win-win!

What say you?


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