11th Jul2023

’97 Minutes’ VOD Review

by James Rodrigues

Stars: Alec Baldwin, Jo Martin, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, MyAnna Buring, Michael Sirow, Pavan Grover, Anjul Nigam, Davor Tomic, Slavko Sobin, Peter Brooke | Written by Pavan Grover | Directed by Timo Vuorensola

Above the North Atlantic Ocean, a terrorist group hijack Oceanic Flight 420. The countdown begins as the NSA try finding a way to combat the situation before the plane’s fuel runs out. Director Hawkins (Alec Baldwin) plans to shoot down the plane before it does catastrophic damage on the ground, although Deputy Toyin (Jo Martin) wishes to put faith in their asset; an Interpol agent working undercover amongst the hijackers.

A key moment has Hawkins declare “This is not the beginning of some heroic story”, before calmly explaining his rationalisation of sacrificing a plane of innocent civilians to save other lives. While that moment begins explaining the boss’ mindset during this crisis, it also attempts to tell audiences not to expect a traditional tale of heroism against all odds. From his early mission to try saving a pilot’s life, Alex (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is characterised as a compassionate guy who strives to achieve his goals, yet darkness lurks courtesy of his deep-seated grief and quest for vengeance.

He enlists the help of Kim (MyAnna Buring), a former doctor who soon becomes his confidant across this sky-high mission. Despite the talented cast assembled, they struggle to naturally convey the dreadful dialogue and trite ploys at emotional manipulation they are given. It’s particularly notable how Baldwin puts on a gruff voice, as though he’s trying to hide how he’s sleepwalking throughout the film.

While interesting ideas lay within Pavan Grover’s screenplay, there’s an uncertainty about how to bring them alive, which includes major turns in the story. There’s a desire to pull the rug out from underneath the audience, yet that only happens because the revelations make no sense with the film which came before it. A large disconnect is felt between scenes, giving the impression that different pages of the screenplay were tackled by various writers, before being assembled with a hope for the best.

There’s an uncertainty about what director Timo Vuorensola (Iron Sky, Jeepers Creepers: Reborn) wishes to accomplish. For a tale which promises duplicity and fighting in the skies, it’s largely unengaging and plagued with dull action sequences. For a story that wishes to tackle the rationalisation of horrific acts and the heavy price left by choices made in times of crisis, it’s too heavy-handed and surface-level for any of it to land. For a film which has Alex manually puppeteering a plane to evade impact, it isn’t even as entertainingly ridiculous as one would hope. The film may keep raising the body count, but it cannot strive to raise viewers’ pulses.

* 1/5

97 Minutes is out now on digital from 101 Films.


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