Stars: Denise Richards, Dolph Lundgren, Jonathan Lipnicki, Greer Grammer, Stephen Graybill, John Posey, Chelsea Edmundson, Chuck Liddell, Jordi Vilasuso, Kirk Barker | Written by Jesse Mittelstadt | Directed by Alex Merkin
FBI agent Gretchen Blair is on a flight to Washington D.C. when the man seated beside her makes an unusual offer. He explains that the plane they’re on is about to be hijacked, and promises to pay her millions of dollars if she can get him safely back on the ground. When a gang of professional thieves takes control of the plane, she realizes he isn’t joking. Soon Gretchen finds herself caught in the middle of an elaborate mid-air heist, fighting to save the passengers while the thieves tear the plane apart, searching for the stolen loot hidden somewhere on board.
Made by the writer/director duo behind 2009′s underrated mystery thriller Across the Hall (one of actress Brittany Murphy’s final films), Altitude is a odd movie. Filmed like a creepy horror flick a la Wes Craven’s Red Eye – and filled with dark shadows, low-light and a foreboding sense of dread – Merkin and Mitterlstadt’s film is world’s apart from their debut outing. Looking like it was filmed on the cheap, with a hefty amount of post-production to give it a more “filmic” look (and to hide some dodgy effects too), Altitude‘s finished appearance just reminded me of the early days of Instagram, when those vintage filters were de rigueur. And it would seem someone behind the film is even more of a fan of lens flare than J.J. Abrams!
Altitude may not look pretty, but it is pretty inconsequential. As in nothing really happens. At all. Bad guys hijack the plan, there’s some shenanigans on board as the intended target goes into hiding (and hides the stash he and the gang now tracking him stole). Bad guys then shout at the passengers, all the while head-hijacker Dolph Lundgren flies the plane. And that’s about it. When the film does try to be all dramatic and ramp up the action it just falls flat. Mainly due to, again, the lacklustre visuals.
The filmmakers may have delivered an uninspired film but despite that fact, credit must go to the two female leads in the film. Denise Richards gets to play a female version of Wesley Snipes in Passenger 57, complete with witty one-liners as she kicks bad guy arse. This is easily the strongest character she has played since her appearance in Starship Troopers. Meanwhile the real star of the show is Greer Grammer, as Sadie, the badass bitch of the hijacking crew – who manages to steal EVERY scene she’s in and shines even when she’s working in the dark (yes, I am going to keep going on about the terrible visuals!) More of Grammer in future please – the bitchier the better!
Part Passenger 57, part Non-Stop, Altitude nevers reaches the heights of those much better plane-set movies; in fact it should probably never have left the runway.
Altitude is available on iTunes, in the US, from today.