There seems to be a spate of films based on aeroplanes that have or are being hijacked. Gerard Butler recently had a go with Plane. Idris Elba is due to lead AppleTV+’s Hijack miniseries which launches this week; 28th June to be precise. Liam Neeson had a turn in 2014 with Non-Stop. And there are the old favourites like Air Force One, and Con Air. I’ll be honest in that I never really expected to see a similar offering in the lower budget/independent neck of the woods. So, I was quite surprised when 97 Minutes dropped into my lap. This film tells the story of a hijacked 767 travelling across the Atlantic heading to the USA.
The fear of another targeted crash into a US city means that NSA Director Hawkins (Alec Baldwin) orders fighters to bring the aeroplane down…if the fuel doesn’t run out first! NSA Deputy Director Toyin (Jo Martin) is dead set against this plan as she doesn’t want to needlessly sacrifice the innocent passengers. Those passengers are now dependent on the undercover Interpol agent who is embedded among the hijackers, Alex (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). I’m not in a position to say much more because there are so many twists and turns that I could easily give away some or all of them. What I will say is that I didn’t see the big one coming!
Sir, We’ve Lost Both F22s
So my guess is that part of what brought this particular sub-genre to my attention is a reasonably sized budget; estimated at $7 million. Filming took place in Alton, Hampshire; home to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Doctor Who, and bits of Four Weddings And A Funeral. To save money there aren’t a lot of locations; the plane, obviously, NSA HQ, and a couple of offices and a toilet. I’m assuming all the external flight scenes were done by the special effects department. Possibly CGI, possibly practical models. It’s the limited settings that give the low budget away. But, so be it if it means getting a better quality cast.
I mean, who can deliver a line like “Mr Secretary, we have a situation here. I suggest we go to DefCon Two immediately” with a straight face and get away with it better than Alec Baldwin? He is bumping heads with an actual iteration of Doctor Who…Jo Martin! Helping Alex on the plane is Kim, played by MyAnna Buring who has been popping up in Downton Abbey, Twilight, and Doctor Who. So quite an accomplished cast. And I haven’t started on the other cast members. Nearly all of them have been in things you’ll recognise and worked with famous faces.
That’s Why We Send Three
And that’s before I even get to the force of nature that is Jonathan Rhys Meyers. For me he first came into being in the TV adaptation of Gormenghast. He played the villainous upstart Steerpike; an absolute lesson in Machiavellian evil, plotting, and treachery. He’d played other parts before and after but this was my introduction to him. He shone like a diamond in a tramp’s ear which was no mean feat when you consider who else was in the cast; Richard Griffiths, Ian Richardson, Stephen Fry, Eric Sykes, Fiona Shaw, Zoë Wanamaker, Celia Imrie, and even Christopher Lee. But the one that I remember is Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
So is 97 Minutes perfect? No. There are the usual little mistakes that most people won’t notice but they passed me by. There were a couple of times when the back projection failed and sparkly patches popped up in people’s hair. The aerial combat scenes seemed to be too small; the combatants seemed to be too close together but, well, willing suspension of disbelief and all that. I suppose the worst thing is that the film is called 97 Minutes but it actually runs for 93 minutes. I don’t know how bad the four minutes that ended up on the cutting room floor were but I’d be tempted to put them back in! Other than that, not a bad little film.
Movie Grade: A-
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Former teacher, lecturer, homelessness administrator, pharmacy dispenser now happily retired, happily married, and a very happy granddad. I live next to the Mersey but on the side Daniel Craig and Taron Egerton come from rather than the side the Beatles came from!