(director/writer: Patrick Vollrath; screenwriter: Senad Halilbasic; cinematographer: Sebastian Thaler; editor: Hansjörg Weißbrich; cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Tobias Ellis), Omid Memar (Vedat), Aylin Tezel ( Gökce), Murathan Muslu (Kenan), Paul Wollin (Daniel), Passar Hariky (Kalkan), Aurélie Thépaut (Nathalie), Cornel Nußbaum (Peter), Carlo Kitzlinger (Captain pilot, Michael); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jonas Katzenstein/Maximilian Leo; Amazon Studios; 2019-Germany/Austria/USA-in English, German Turkish, Arabic, with English subtitles if needed)

“Tense, well-crafted and fast paced, but the air comes out of it after the mid-way point.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The title refers to the Air Traffic Control code for a plane being hijacked. German filmmaker Patrick Vollrath (“Everything Will Be Okay”), in his first feature film, keeps it tense, well-crafted and fast paced, but the air comes out of it after the mid-way point because it looks like other films on the same subject, has a thin screenplay and is formulaic. It’s co-written by Vollrath and the Vienna-based Bosnian writer Senad Halilbasic, who keep it believable and scary but provide little social context. It’s uniquely shot without a musical score, which I presume was an effort to keep it as real as possible–which seems primarily what the film was aiming for and achieved.

The film opens
at the Berlin Airport with the 85 passengers checking in for an evening flight to Paris. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the bespectacled Tobias Ellis is the American-born co-pilot of the German airliner that’s en route to Paris. It’s noted that the American doesn’t speak German, which is kind of odd since he now lives in Berlin. In any case,  the Airbus is a target of Muslim terrorists, who take issue with western policies in the Middle-East and scheme to take over the plane and crash it, 9/11 style, in a suicide mission, as a protest to those policies.

The bad guys, Daniel (Paul Wollin) and, the terrorist gang leader,
Kenan (Muruthan Muslu), bang on the cockpit door just after the plane takes off. When a flight-attendant leaves the cockpit Kenan uses as a weapon broken glass wrapped around his arm, and is the only one to gain entry into the cockpit. He overcomes the German pilot (Carlo Kitzlinger, former real pilot for a German airliner) by knocking him out (leaving him near death) and stabs Tobias in the arm, with the glass, severely injuring him in the scuffle. Tobias recovers and overtakes Kenan, strapping the unconscious terrorist securely into a seat. One of the two flight attendants, Gökce (Aylin Tezel), is Tobias’ live-in girlfriend, who is of German & Turkish roots, and is the mother of his two-year-old son. She’s being detained in a chokehold outside the cockpit by the other two terrorists, the skittish 18-year-old mama’s boy Turk named Vedat (Omid Memar) and Kalkan (Passar Hariky). All this is seen by Tobias on the CCTV monitor, but he’s obligated to follow the strict rules of the airlines to let no one into the cockpit that’s not supposed to be there.

It’s up to
Joseph Gordon-Levitt to save the passengers and the film, and by his usual good performance (one he can do in his sleep) does both.
When compared with the similar themed
Paul Greengrass United 93, the film considerably pales. But that doesn’t preclude this one from being decent. That is, even if a bit ‘cockpit claustrophobic,’ it still puts us realistically in the Airbus A319 and in real time takes us through a frightening experience we can all imagine happening if we fly after 9/11. It’s just too bad that it seems like I saw the white-knuckler movie before, but I can still appreciate its effort to be effective and entertaining, especially in its techie aspects.