Directed by Dominic Burns (who recently popped up as an actor in Strippers Vs. Werewolves), 2012's Airborne will instantly be of interest to some simply because it features Mark Hamill in a live action role. Those who have followed Luke Skywalker's career post Return Of The Jedi will tell you that he hasn't done much in front of the camera since then, but he has been incredibly prolific and successful as a voice actor.
At any rate, the film finds Hammill playing an air traffic controller named Malcolm who is toiling away at his job just as he has every other day. Fast approaching his retirement, he sends one last plane to the runway for takeoff so that it can get on its way before a large storm sweeps into the area. Things seem alright at first but soon enough the plane starts running into problems. When Malcolm loses contact with the plane, which is supposed to be on its way from London to New York City, things go from bad to worse and before you know it, the passengers are starting to die. What exactly is causing all of this remains a mystery, but it seems to stem back to an antique vase brought on board by one of he travelers...
Airborne starts off rather well, though understandably it is going to draw some comparisons to The Twilight Zone as it really does go for that sort of oddball mystery feel, but unfortunately starts to bog down in the latter half. The set up isn't particularly original but it is effective enough to get our attention - we meet a few of the different passengers on the plane, there's some decent foreshadowing here and there and the impending storm serves as a believable device for adding tension to the plot. Most of these early scenes are very heavy on the dialogue but it's written with enough snap and personality that it's easy enough to take in.
Once the plane is off the ground and things start to get chaotic, however, the movie begins to show some cracks. While there are some creative kill scenes here and a few decent scenes of carnage and gore, it quickly becomes apparent that the setup was there not to give us interesting characters but to basically just get a bunch of people into an airplane to be murdered. The violence is there, sure, but it lacks much in the way of impact or substance and this definitely hurts the film. You can probably blame the script for this problem more so than anything else, as on a technical level the film is rather well put together, it just doesn't have a whole lot of meat on its bones.
So what about the cast? Luke Skywalker is in this, damn it - does he do anything awesome? Well it'd be unrealistic to expect any lightsaber duals so there's none of that but he's fine in the role, the main issue, however, is that he's not really in the movie all that much. He's top billed, presumably for commercial reasons, but it's more of a supporting role than a starring one. The rest of the cast, made up of some fairly recognizable British actors including Craig Conway and Billy Murray, seems to be overdoing it here and there and many of the performances border very closely to or head straight on into hammy territory. The fact that there are some serious logic gaps in the storyline don't help much either.
The cinematography is fine, the set design believable enough and the editing fairly decent but there's really just not a whole lot here to make this one stand out. By the time that the end credits hit the screen it's all turned out to be pretty unremarkable.
Airborne arrives on DVD in a nice looking 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The image is clean and clear and free of any obvious defects. There are no issues with print damage nor are there any edge enhancement problems. Some minor compression artifacts are evident in a few of the darker scenes but otherwise, things look just fine. Color reproduction is good, skin tones look lifelike and accurate and detail is about average for a modestly budgeted straight to video feature.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track. It gets the job done without any issues, spreading the score and the effects around rather well. Levels are properly balanced, there are no issues with any hiss or distortion and there's good depth to a few of the more action oriented scenes. No alternate language options or subtitles are provided.
There are no extras on this disc, just a menu and chapter selection.
Airborne starts off reasonably well, working in some effective elements of mystery and suspense, but tends to lose focus in its last half resulting in a conclusion that isn't particularly satisfying or original. Image's DVD looks and sounds fine but doesn't offer up any extras. This is one you can safely skip - hardcore Mark Hammill fans may find it enough of a curiosity item to warrant a rental but should be warned that he's not really in it all that much.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.