FBI hostage negotiator Agent Gretchen Blair (Denise Richards) has gone rogue again, disobeying her boss’s orders one too many times, and now he wants his revenge, so he transfers her to Washington, D.C. where she will spend the rest of her days with the Bureau sitting behind a desk, buried in paperwork. Dejected and depressed, Gretchen boards her Speedbird Airlines flight and finds her way to seat in coach, which is surrounded by the sounds of crying babies and people coughing, and a man sitting in her window seat refuses to move. This is going to be a long five and a half hour flight!
Fortunately, one of the flight attendants takes pity on Gretchen and upgrades her to business class, where she is seated next to Terry (Kirk Barker), a handsome British man headed for Paris. When Terry learns of Gretchen’s profession, he offers her $50 million to help him get off the plane alive. He explains that his ex Sadie (Greer Grammer, Awkward., The Middle) and former partners Matthew Sharpe (Dolph Lundgren) & Rawbones (Chuck Liddell) are on board the plane, staging a deadly hijacking in order to get to something he is hiding. Now Gretchen must utilize her skills to figure out who she can trust and to stay alive. She must learn what the hijackers are looking for and get to it first so that she has the leverage she needs to negotiate with them.
What follows is a dangerous game of cat and mouse as Gretchen tries to covertly make her way around the cabin, eliminating/neutralizing the threat before it’s too late.
I have mixed feelings about Altitude—while the film had a lot of potential to be a really fun, second-tier action flick, it falters in a few places and comes off a little too B-movie. The cold open provides a slightly tense, fun (though somewhat predictable) introduction to Agent Gretchen Blair. She’s good at her job and is able to talk down a hostage-taker, but she gets a little too close to her subjects and ignores orders. However, Gretchen’s reassignment is less due to the fact that she went rogue to save a man’s life, but rather that her stereotypical, misogynistic boss just likes to assert his authority over his female subordinate.
As Gretchen makes her way on board plane, we are presented with this interesting premise of people hijacking a plane in order to obtain something from their former partner. (Sure, they could have done this before he got on the plane and it would have been a lot easier, but then we wouldn’t have a film!) While the execution of this premise didn’t ultimately end up being as exciting as it seemed like it would be, there were a few things that I really appreciated. First, these were not your stereotypical foreign terrorists, but rather just hijackers with a non-terrorism motive. They have a well thought out plan, and waste no time in executing it—even if that means killing some innocent people to do so. There are some twists and turns in the story (though some are a bit predictable), and Gretchen isn’t entirely sure who she can trust, and as a viewer you also get a similar feeling.
That said, this was certainly no Air Force One—some of the execution is a bit sub-par. The passengers seem way too calm about what’s going on. While the hijacking is initially a stealthy maneuver, the passengers do eventually gain a better sense of what’s going on, and yet most of them still remain quiet or even sleep while it is happening—they never have this sense of immediate terror or life-threatening danger. There are also some really clunky mid-air fights that play out in almost slow motion, and feel a bit over-choreographed. I couldn’t tell if this was just poor direction, or if it was done on purpose due to the fact that the lights were supposed to be out and so the characters wouldn’t be ale to see one another very well. The action sequences did get a lot better in the final act of the film, however Dolph Lundgren felt quite underutilized overall. He was more of a sidekick to Greer Grammer, who was the baddie in charge. If you’ve got a big action star like Dolph Lundgren, he should be part of the main action, not stuck alone in the cockpit for most of the film!
The Blu-ray presentation is decent, but nothing remarkable. At times the audio track makes excellent use of the surround and stereo channels to bring the immersive ambiance of the plane to life. Having recently returned from a trip, I was instantly transported back into that nightmare atmosphere of crying babies and people coughing all around me. The subwoofer is also used to add a little kick to some explosive scenes. While the dialogue was clear, the film’s score was a bit too subdued and uneventful—something more punchy would have really helped to amp up the excitement and make the film a little more intense. For the most part, the video presentation was decent, with a clean picture and believable-looking effects. However, at times the colors were a little washed out. In the final act there was this excessive, digitally-added precipitation and debris that made it really difficult to see what was actually going on at times, and the some of the fast camera moves caused things to be a bit blurry.
Unfortunately there are no bonus features included on this release except for a digital copy of the film, the film’s trailer, and trailers for other Lionsgate releases. The Blu-ray disc comes packed in standard keepcase with a slipcover, and contains an insert with a code to redeem for an UltraViolet digital HD copy of the film.
- 1080p / Widescreen 2.40:1
- Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
- UltraViolet Digital HD copy redeemable via Vudu
Digital HD (Redemption deadline 6/20/2018):
- Altitude Trailer (1:42)
- Also From Lionsgate (9:20)
Trailers for “Aftermath”, “Extortion”, “Isolation”, “Arsenal” and “Marauders”.
Altitude starts off pretty strong with an interesting premise and setting. However, the cast is under-utilized and the action sequences come off a little weak. The film’s score also lacks the punch needed to help add excitement and some tension to what’s happening on screen. By the end of the film, there is a push for more action, but this is often drowned out by the excessive use of digital effects. The Blu-ray presentation is decent, but not incredibly remarkable, and the disc contains no bonus features. I would recommend a rental before making a blind buy.