Thursday, October 20, 2011

Altitude (2010)

Giving more reasons to stay out of the clouds

Five are about to embark on a short plane trip in a twin engine to a concert in Montreal. There's a share of joking at first--which acts something like foreshadowing for what's to come--about their departure and how some have pasts related to traveling in planes. Their confident pilot--Sara: the daughter of a Colonel--bands the rowdy group together and off they go. In the air the resident party animal/jock along with the neighborhood musician chides everyone on, while the beer-in-one-hand jock's girlfriend films with her camera and the new shy guy named Bruce--who's friends with Sara and has got a special comic he just bought--gets the brunt of it. Some rough weather is up ahead and Sara decides to climb over top since the small plane isn't equipped for the turbulence. The elevator switch becomes jammed, along with the instruments and communications, and they're headed right for terrible storm clouds with their prior jokes turning over to grave matters. All that loss of control and feeling of being trapped is capitalized here, along with other dark elements--some uncanny, some human--thrown out of left field to make flying in the skies even more nerve wrecking.

These aren't exactly the people you'd want to go through a mounting disaster with, with the exception of the pilot who holds her senses together with reason and rationale despite getting emotional at times as well. The others are trouble before they even set off, which makes the tension a little exaggerated and possibly annoying at times but still mostly effective at driving interaction between the players in the claustrophobic space and without the ground in sight. They all get disoriented and tempers start to flair, along with some hidden revelations come out about their relationships with one another due to the stressful circumstances. They have to come up with game plans if they want to survive. Some can't be trusted that they have the best interests of the group in mind. Some either hallucinate, are intoxicated or affected by an oxygen depravation. This is definitely a varied movie as the tone of the picture transitions from thriller and survival in the air to mystery, science fiction and dark fantasy genres--and then if that wasn't enough potentially romance--when some of the controls and their location can't be explained by logic or rational reasons. Some theories arise as to what it all means but then is put to rest when a final culmination wraps up drastically different from the way it started out, though refreshingly so. It might leave a dividing point between some viewers who expected one thing and got another, and is possibly more catered to the lover of films in general than a specific genre freak.

This was a surprise. The effects were decent enough for the budget with a blend of models and CGI--helped by the dark shadows and storming clouds to cover up any sharp contrasts. "Altitude" is not just a straight forward situation-gone-wrong type of movie but one that also deals with overcoming fear, rejection, insecurities and the dangers of the world on the ground and in the air. There's some reward for watching this instead of going for an entirely bleak conclusion that many horror films do--which I can't say this belongs with two feet in the genre. This is left somewhat open to interpretation of its fantasy mechanics--think along the lines of old EC comics or "Twilight Zone"--which also includes areas of inconsistences, though it still causes the imagination to open up to the possibilities, and like those fill in some of the blanks for yourself. The pacing of its revelations helps it to stay on track by progressing and growing from the outset to eventually make this an exceptional story to be told than a rehash or just going for the tried and true.

Rating: 7/10

Director: Kaare Andrews
Stars: Jessica Lowndes, Julianna Guill, Ryan Donowho, Landon Liboiron, Jake Weary
Link: IMDB


  1. This movie was pretty decent. You managed to describe accurately its plot.. Also the girl playing the pilot is uber hot.

  2. Thanks! Yes, very attractive and confident. Thought this gave her a much better place to shine over "Autopsy."