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“Airborne” is a Brit horror directed by Dominic Burns (“Cut”), whose main draw is probably the presence of “Star Wars” favourite Mark Hamill, making his first appearance in a film from these shores. With a script by TV comedy writer Paul Chronnell, the film also stars a host of semi recognisable Brit talent, including Andrew Shim (“This is England”), Julian Glover (“Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade”), Alan Ford (“Snatch”) and Billy Murray (“Rise of the Footsoldier”). Having recently played the British Independent Film Festival, the film arrives shortly on Region 2 DVD via Chelsea Films.
Hamill provides the opening narration, though doesn’t actually make it into the air himself, playing a traffic controller trying to keep track of a flight which suddenly diverts from its planned course during a wintery storm. The passengers (made up of a motley mix of gangsters, soldiers, the inevitable sexed up couple, a priest and other familiar figures) soon realise that something is wrong, especially when they start to go missing one by one and the pilots themselves disappear.
“Airborne” tries to play with its genres in an effort to keep things interesting, and has been described by Burns as a kind of “Twilight Zone” style thriller. The comparison is not unwarranted, as the film does manage to work in some reasonably entertaining twists along the way, and without wishing to give away any of its wacky secrets, it shows some occasionally decent storytelling as it works in thriller and supernatural elements. At the same time, Burns wisely never takes things too seriously, and without falling back on too much needless comic relief, there’s a pleasing lack of pretension to the proceedings, focusing instead on delivering the goods.
Despite its potentially nail biting setting, the film isn’t terribly tense and never manages to actually scare, though in its favour it has enough going on to keep things moving at an economic pace, with some fun set pieces and a handful of effective gore scenes during the later stages. The production values are surprisingly decent, it having apparently been filmed on an actual aeroplane, and though the acting and script are variable at best, there’s nothing too grating or distracting, Burns having the sense to knock off at least some of the more annoying characters early on.
This sums up “Airborne” fairly well, as whilst not exactly a good film, it’s a modest little genre outing which passes its short one hour and twenty minute running time without ever really dropping the ball too badly. Above average by the usual direct to DVD horror standard and given a minor boost by the presence of Hamill, it’s a film that should be enjoyed, if probably not remembered, by undemanding fans of schlock.
Dominic Burns (director) / Paul Chronnell (screenplay)
CAST: Mark Hamill … Malcolm
Craig Conway … Luke
Billy Murray … Cutter
Sebastian Street … Agent Moss
Simon Phillips … Alan
Julian Glover … George
Gemma Atkinson … Harriett
Alan Ford … Max