Thursday, 17 March 2011



Here's another example of genre cinema's increasing inability to give us any characters worth caring about or wanting to spend a split nanosecond more than is strictly necessary with. Usually in any horror movie there's one or two you hope do end up on the pointy end of whatever power tools are to hand, but where's the horror in seeing grunting Neanderthal boneheads being slaughtered? That's not horror, it's fair dos. In this case the film runs around 65 minutes and 58 seconds before the cheerworthy demise of the main offender, a charmless, beer-swilling cretin who couldn't be more of a despicable douchebag if he stomped around with his knob out, wearing full Waffen SS regalia and hitting puppies with a shovel.

You really shouldn't be sitting there willing the damned plane to smack into the side of a mountain, but that's ultimately what happens in Altitude, in whch five pretty but disposable and annoying idiots go up in a plane and then, after a reel or more of boring soap opera blithering, Things Go Wrong: a bolt comes loose and is trapped in the elevators (tail flaps) which means the plane can't descend, and then they lose all instruments and radio as they fly into a mysterious storm cloud. Fighting, bickering and recriminations ensue. But is there really a gigantic monster lurking in the skies, as Douchebag #1 claims he glimpsed? What, if anything, might it have to do with the death in a plane crash of the pilot's mother years ago?

So you get around 70 minutes of tedious teenage shouting and histrionics in an aeroplane and then a silly finale when, yes, we get to see the mysterious monster for about 10 seconds and it's defeated by.....? The resolution and explanation is pure Twilight Zone: in fact if you took out the swearing and oafishness and hacked it down to 45 minutes you'd probably have a decent TV anthology episode - or 20 minutes for a Creepshow segment. But in these more cynical days, as the rationale behind a feature film, it just doesn't work and if you want the sudden emotional truths to have any impact, you've got to make me care. And I didn't. And scientifically it's questionable: they say they have limited oxygen but there doesn't seem to be much problem opening the doors in flight.

On a technical level, the film's perfectly okay - mostly shot in a very confined space (the film I kept thinking of was Five Across The Eyes, filmed entirely in a 4x4) but with much use of greenscreen for the CGI storm effects. All the mechanics of filmmaking are fine: it's well put together but there's no dramatic interest because I was bored with everyone on board. I should be willing at least some of these people to make it to the end, but whenever the pilot said "we could crash into a mountain" I struggled to find the downside.


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