Synopsis – A couple flying on a small plane to attend a tropical island wedding must fight for their lives after their pilot suffers a heart attack.
My Take – On paper, survival thrillers actually seem quite simple to make, where the writers just have to place two or more ordinary people in an extraordinary and scary situation and then think of a roadblock to hinder them. But, depending on the execution and the handling of the said preposterous scenario, a film can go both ways, be suspenseful and thrilling or just turn ridiculously laughable.
This latest thriller, helmed by Swedish director Mikael Marcimain, indeed has the advantage of having experience on board in the form of writers Josh Campbell and Matthew Stueken, who are known for their work on 10 Cloverfield Lane, and Jaume Collet-Serra, the director of The Shallows (2016), as one of its producers. Plus with a concept that is largely set in the plane that must be kept safely in the air, the film meant to provide thrills in the form of close-quarters panic with battered and overwhelmed characters.
And while the setting does successfully bring mild amount of tensions in the skies, unfortunately, the screenplay is just boring and scarce with imagination, as it preferred to focus more on a banal relationship which is further worn down by halfhearted performances that can’t sell the urgency of the moment.
Here, both Campbell and Stueken struggle to create real tension due to the lack of space and characters, with the only intensity coming in the sequences which require the protagonists to step out of the aircraft midair. Hence, with the final result not being as pulse-pounding as once would expect, the film just ends up being more in line with those traditional January films that are often considered the year’s worst.
The story follows Sara (Allison Williams) and Jackson (Alexander Dreymon), who had fleeting affair on a Mauritius island which ended abruptly as Sara choose to head back to her corporate job in London, leaving Jackson in the cold. A year later, Sara has returned to the same island to play maid-of-honor for a nearby wedding to which Jackson is also attending. Though they reunite briefly for a night of passion, Sara splits again the next morning, in the process also missing the only ferry over to the nuptials.
Now forced to fly together in a tension filled small plane piloted by their old friend Wyman (Keith David), who also gave Sara a few lessons, their trip turns chaotic when Wyman suffers a heart attack whilst airborne and dies. Forced to take over, Sara and Jackson try and pilot the plane towards land before they run out of fuel, even if it means braving an oncoming storm or trying to cover up any fuel leaks while flying over the vast ocean.
What follows is one unrealistic event after the other, all but one hinted at threat at the end come true and are solved in even more ludicrous ways than you can imagine. What’s surprising is that it takes the film about 30 minutes before the chaos begins, leaving the first act to detail the central relationship between Sara and Jackson. The film tries to create a through line with the character’s persistent commitment issues, pretending that life on the island isn’t for her, choosing to work in the cold business world of London instead, and for him vice versa.
The film hopes to conjure warmth with the coupling, and the director and the writers aims to generate a roller coaster ride, but it all just ends becoming routine with director Marcimain favoring aerial gymnastics and near-misses, using exaggeration to hold viewer attention.
The film also introduces extremity with sudden changes in altitude and another fuel issue that requires an additional visit to the outside of the plane. A concept like this can certainly work, if the film contains characters who you care about and want to see survive real stakes that constantly leave you on the edge.
Sadly, the film doesn’t do a very good job at either; for a film about two people trapped in a plane flying above an endless oceanic atmosphere, not only do you feel no sense of investment or urgency in this scenario, but you also don’t feel anything for the people involved. Some actions could be argued were done because the characters were desperate and have to take some extreme actions to prolong the flight, but the presentation is so poor that you end up questioning their train of thought. The filmmakers attempted to give the film an emotional core.
But both Allison Williams and Alexander Dreymon are unconvincing in their roles, both in the drama and the action sequences. Williams, who’s proven in the past to be a competent actor, is largely reduced to panicked screams which can become grating after a while, meanwhile Draymon rarely shows any emotions. In smaller roles, Keith David and Pearl Mackie are comparatively better. On the whole, ‘Horizon Line’ is a lazy and absurd survival thriller that never really takes flight.
Directed – Mikael Marcimain
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 92 minutes