Synopsis – A woman with a mysterious illness is forced into action when a group of terrorists attempt to hijack a transatlantic overnight flight.
My Take – I think we all have seen enough aircraft hijackings features to last a lifetime, but with amount of intensity and thrill attached to the sub-genre, filmmakers keep finding their way back to tell a familiar tale with their set of plot twists as seen in Flight Plan (2005) and Non Stop (2014), or add technical twists as seen in the Amazon Prime released cockpit-only vehicle 7500 (2019), or just decide to keep it simple blockbuster-y like Passenger 57 (1992) Executive Decision (1996) and Air Force One (1997) or go the complete B film route.
However, this new Netflix release, which is partially in English and partially in German, is more on the lines of the obscure and corny Snakes on a Plane (2006), only replaced with a serious tone and vampire twist.
Drawing from many influences, with just enough character development through slow-burned flashbacks and a propensity to turn the tables when you least expect it, the film isn’t out to defy genre limitations, but to satisfy its blood thirty audience with a pretty decent vampire flick, only with the added bonus of successfully fusing that with a pretty solid hijacked plane film.
Though at times it does seem overlong and finds itself succumbing to Netflix’s apparent two-hour duration requirement, thankfully, director Peter Thorwarth and co-writer Stefan Holtz are able to engagingly mishmash the two genres well and incorporates a lot of tension and thrills, making it stand well as a suspenseful, moving, and surprising film from start to finish.
The story follows Nadja (Peri Baumeister), a German widow with a mysterious illness, who with her young son Elias (Carl Anton Koch) boards the airline Transatlantic 473 flying to New York to visit a doctor, hoping that his medical facility has a treatment for her. However, all her plans to discreetly travel are ruined when a group of terrorists led by Berg (Dominic Purcell) and consisting of Eightball (Alexander Scheer), Bill Morris (Gordon Brown), Bastian Buchner (Kai Ivo Baulitz), Karl (Roland Moller), and Curtiz (Chidi Ajufo) hijacks the plane, in hopes of crashing the stock market.
And when she sees that Elias’s life along with the rest of the passengers like Farid (Kais Setti) are in danger despite the hijackers promising otherwise, Nadja decides to fight back even if it exposes her bloodsucking secret.
Suffice to say German director Peter Thorwarth manages to make the absolute most out of the single-location, really transforming the notionally claustrophobic plane setting into a surprisingly huge stage for the action to unfold, and conjures up a nail-biting gore fest that leaves nearly every corner of the plane splattered by the end of 121 minutes.
The film threads the needle effectively, providing edge-of-your-seat moments of suspense, bloody scenes of horror, and even a few brief moments of wry comic relief. Even examining capitalism’s susceptibility to fear-based manipulation, the injustice of Islamophobia, and the ways that humans fail each other when survival is on the line.
However, what prevents the film from becoming a B film experience is when director Peter Thorwarth smoothly balances the mayhem with tenderness. The moving relationship between mother and son results in several heart-tugging scenes amidst the heart-stopping suspense.
Not only is Nadja in a fight for her life against the hijackers, she also has to somehow control her blood lust. This leads to some poignant interactions with her son, leading to an excellent climax, which while does not exactly land the emotional gut punch it seems to be going for, but is definitely a powerful moment.
Even the creature design, body movement, and sound design for the vampires are viscerally frightening and feature a few inventive flourishes, similar on the lines of 30 Days of Night (2007).
The only factor, according to my opinion, which goes against the film is its run time. It would have served the film well if it had been at least thirty minutes shorter. It would have not only made the editing crispier but would have also given audiences no time to breathe. Although it’s always good when a film has a lot of action or story occurring, this one feels like it is cramming too much in a short amount of time.
Having said that, I was also impressed by the performances that in many ways was better than what a film of this nature deserves. Without a doubt it is Peri Baumeiseter and Carl Anton Koch who anchor the film with their central performances. Baumeister is especially a phenomenal vampire mama in how she articulates the more beastly, feral traits of affection when a mother soothes her child’s nerves, stroking his hair but still with this rigid primal physicality.
While Anton Koch might be even better as a son who doesn’t see his mother as a monster, capable of moving audiences with teary eyes or these cub-like embraces of a creature who’s nothing but his entire world.
In other roles, Alexander Scheer in particular stands out with his magnetic and unpredictable presence, while Graham McTavish, Dominic Purcell, Kais Setti, Gordon Brown, Kai Ivo Baulitz, Roland Moller, Chidi Ajufo, and Nader Ben-Abdallah, provide good support. On the whole, ‘Blood Red Sky’ is a riveting action horror that is thrilling and emotionally investing.
Directed – Peter Thorwarth
Rated – R
Run Time – 121 minutes