After a mid-air collision, an uncontrollable passenger plane with 90 souls on board speeds through the skies over Germany. The impact point for the inevitable plane crash is easily ... See full summary »
After a mid-air collision, an uncontrollable passenger plane with 90 souls on board speeds through the skies over Germany. The impact point for the inevitable plane crash is easily calculated: the center of Berlin. Now the race is on to prevent the catastrophe. Will the plane have to be shot down by fighter pilots? Written by
Airliner disaster films were a particularly popular but dire form of the 1970s disaster film. The brilliant Airplane! made sure you could never watch these films with a straight face again, but the sub-genre had already degenerated to such self-parody that only the better gags really distinguish the film from the contemporaneous "straight" effort The Concorde. With new effects technologies and a new dearth of ideas ushering the return of the disaster film in the 2000s, this German film inexplicably tries to play the airborne disaster scenario without any hint of irony, as if all its laughed-out clichés were shiny and new innovations.
Hence ten minutes into the film, we have an airliner without controls climbing towards a fatal stall, while the ground control, an anxious airline suit and a greasy government minister debate whether to shoot the plane down, before it crashes in the middle of Berlin. On board are all the requisite stereotypes: a stern but solid captain haunted by a past incident; a cocky young co-pilot and a failed medical student who have to rise to the challenge; an insecure engineer with vital technical know-how; a stupid and cowardly bully; and a cute kid who helps save the day. Fatalities and survivors are telegraphed early on, so the ride itself becomes the focus.
And the film does pull out all the stops, quickly jettisoning any unwieldy ballast like sense of reality, laws of physics and finally even internal consistency in order to keep the ill-fated plane and its long-suffering passengers constantly building up to an immediate disaster, only to defuse it again at the last moment. It is crassly manipulative, shamelessly sentimental and cynically exploitative. And yet it is well made and can offer a single engaging ride, as long as the audience don't engage their frontal lobes too much. I'm actually amazed that someone had the bottle to even make this film.
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