More peril in a confined space in Altitude, a film which just manages to redeem itself from tedious jock-a-rama with an entertaining twist towards its close. However, before talking about the film in more detail, I have to ask: when bratty, idiotic 18-25s like the characters in Altitude are cast, what is it for, really? Are we genuinely expected to empathise with their plights, or are they designed to be loathed so much that we can relax into guilt-free catharsis? I have not found an answer to this question, but if it is the case that these characters are meant to our buddies, then my non-membership in the target demographic of this and many other films has just been reconfirmed.
The film begins with a 'birth of a life's ambition' moment when we see how one of our 18-25s, Sara (Jessica Lowndes) lost her mother, a pilot, in a place crash. Rather than be discouraged from flying forever though, Sara has followed in her mother's footsteps and is about to fly four of her eminently slappable friends to a concert. Various babble relating to the interrelationships between the characters then ensues before it's time for take off, and you can ponder how a somewhat temazepam-hazy nineteen year old could really be a pilot already, or indeed how her tutor/possible love interest could appear to be even younger than her.
A little manufactured drama later (as, ahem, trained professional Sara encourages the nervy flying-phobic Bruce to try to fly the plane, which he does - hard towards the ground) and the group are on their way. It's not long before we're into the hub of the film's horror however, as a mysterious storm envelops the craft and wreaks havoc on the plane's instruments. Worse still, there seems to be something else out there…
The idea that this is a monster movie of some kind - as you might infer from the cover - is not really realised in the film; what we have here is a group of young people going to pieces under pressure, that pressure being the danger of being caught up in a storm, rather than anything more supernatural. As far as performances go, the cast here do a reasonable job at enacting how a bunch of petty, silly teenagers might act under duress. There are many possible pitfalls of scripting a film with a tiny cast and one location, and the filmmakers try to overcome these by inserting tonnes of dialogue and as many new elements as possible - characters having to try and fix things, characters going stir-crazy, characters rolling around and fighting. This all results in a reasonable level of tension, all things considered, though there are inevitably periods in which things start to lag, and lots of over familiar crises.
We're nearly up to the one-hour mark before the film really wades in with its supernatural plot line - personally, I'd have liked a few more tentacles and a few less histrionics, as the eventual reasoning behind this otherwise familiar 'intense situation' was a genuinely entertaining idea, reminiscent of Tales from the Crypt in its punch line. Altitude was directed by graphic novelist Kaare Andrews and this did show, not only in the film's ending but in a lot of the earlier scenes. The film has a polished, slick look about it and some good photography too. So, some bad calls in characterisation and lots of formula here, but some decent ideas too, together with enough of a fun conclusion to help offset other issues. Altitude certainly isn't without merit, but its pitfalls are made worse by being common pitfalls.
The DVD release offers a Behind the Scenes documentary, a featurette showing 'green screen' footage and development, an original concept gallery and trailer. Picture and sound-wise, this is a good quality release, dark of course but still clear and crisp. Altitude is presented in a 2:40:1 aspect ratio and with the usual 5.1/2.0 sound options.
Review by Keri O'Shea
|Released by Anchor Bay Entertainment|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|