Directed by Dominic Burns
Distributed by Chelsea Films
Terror takes to the skies in director Dominic Burns’ modest Brit-flick Airborne, as a varied group of passengers aboard Atlantic Airways Flight 686 find themselves dealing with much more than a spot of turbulence aboard the doomed aircraft. With a major storm approaching, said flight becomes the final of the evening from East Midlands Airport, overseen on the ground by experienced ATC agent, and imminent retiree, Malcolm (Hamill).
As boorish behaviour, passenger disagreements, confusion over just whether the flight is actually headed for its New York destination and mysterious disappearances launch the passengers and crew towards repeated loggerheads, a further revelation comes to light: On board the craft is a mysterious antique vase, rumoured to hold one particularly nasty spirit of Chinese legend. As Malcolm and Co. find themselves dealing with a lack of communication from the pilots and the plane disappearing from radar coverage, the blood soon starts to flow while the beleaguered passengers contend with threats both human and supernatural.
Packed with a recognisable, and more than capable, cast of British actors, Airborne is a surprisingly focused, unpretentious and competent little thriller. The ever-entertaining Alan Ford steals the show with his usual Cockney Kingpin routine, but that’s not to belittle the rest of the major performers – all of whom barely set a foot wrong as they deliver a script that, while well constructed, is just far too plain for its own good despite delivering quite a few twists and turns along the way. Similarly, director Burns constructs an ably shot, pacy and consistently engaging narrative that sadly just fails to soar.
Feeling on every level like an extended episode of “The Twilight Zone”, Airborne’s major failing is its total inability to generate any palpable sense of tension or fear. Sure, people are dying, and there’s some spooky shit going on, but Airborne’s matter-of-fact, Sunday TV movie approach undermines the threat at every possible avenue. Hell, the climax even hurtles towards a very possible Armageddon whilst raising nary a chill.
So that’s it in a nutshell: Airborne is a consistently enthralling story with plenty going for it but sorely lacking in any actually horrific moments. It sports a very good cast, strong performances (though Mark Hamill feels deeply underutilised as he spends most of the film sitting at a desk shouting) and an easygoing demeanour that effortlessly invites you in. One to relax and take in on a rainy afternoon, then, but don’t expect any legitimate scares here. Seems that particular ingredient got left on the ground.
It looks like the baggage handlers also failed to process the extras package, too, as Chelsea Films’ UK DVD release of Airborne sports only the trailer as a special feature.
3 out of 5
1/2 out of 5