No matter what the safety statistics may say, flying is scary. For a lot of people, the idea of getting into a metal tube and whizzing through the air at high speeds is terrifying all by itself, so perhaps it’s not surprising that there have been a lot of horror movies set on planes. Unfortunately, most of them are terrible, and Airborne is no exception.
It’s hard to know where to begin summing up the plot, because it’s incredibly convoluted in a way that suggests the filmmakers hadn’t quite made up their minds what the story should be about. But let’s try to make some sense of it anyway. Due to adverse weather conditions, most of the flights out of the East Midlands Airport have been cancelled, but one plane manages to take off regardless. Only about ten people are aboard, and they’re all badly written caricatures. There’s a Cockney gangster and his body guards, a couple of soldiers, a mysterious old man, an amorous couple, some pretty air hostesses, and some guy with no discernible character traits who is presumably supposed to function as a kind of everyman.
The other thing that’s on the plane is a suspicious looking box containing a priceless artefact, so, naturally, someone decides to hijack the plane to try to steal it. Unfortunately for them, the artefact turns out to be a vase that contains, um… an ancient evil god, because why not? Obviously, the god gets out of its box and starts possessing people in order to try to murder everyone else, as ancient evil gods are known to do. Since there aren’t many people on the plane, though, and since they’re all eminently unlikeable to begin with, watching them get picked off isn’t particularly dramatic or effective.
Adding another layer of stupidity to the proceedings, the drama on the plane is interspersed with scenes set in the airport’s control room, as the airline staff try to figure out why the plane is going in the wrong direction and the pilots won’t answer their calls. In his first and, probably, last appearance in a British film, Mark Hamill plays an air traffic controller on the brink of retirement who’s called upon to try to sort out the mess. He gets to pull a few very sincere faces and deliver a few lines of ominous voiceover, but really, his role could have been played by anyone. It’s a stretch to even describe him as the star of the film, since the narrative is so jumbled that there isn’t really a star. Or a main character. Or a character of any description. It’s all just kind of tedious.
The overall message of the film, bizarrely, is that sometimes bad things happen to good people. It’s a line that’s repeated several times throughout the course of the film, just in case you weren’t paying attention the first time. It’s apt, too. Here, the ‘bad thing’ is this film, and the ‘good people’ include anyone unfortunate enough to have sat through it. And there’s Mark Hamill, too: perhaps the scariest thing about this movie is the crushing realisation that age will come to us all, even if we used to be Luke Skywalker. No-one can escape the ravages of time, but Hamill really deserved better than this. Let’s all watch Star Wars again to cheer ourselves up.
Extras:It’s almost a completely bare-bones disc, the only real ‘extra’ is the film’s trailer, unless you count the two different audio options. There aren’t even any subtitles.