Sunday, August 23, 2015

Movie Review: FLIGHT WORLD WAR II (2015)

Note: Not actually based on true events...
There are a lot of cheesy, low-budget World War Two movies out there, especially in the last few years. IRON SKY is one of my particular favorites, a "Nazis on the Moon" film full of good, dorky fun. A few days ago, I happened to notice another low-budget WW2 movie pop up on Netflix, FLIGHT WORLD WAR II, about a modern passenger airliner that time-travels back to the beginning of the Second World War and "must change the course of history" in order to return.

Okay, this sounds kinda dumb, but for a lazy Sunday morning, I'm intrigued. So I gave it a view, and like most movies put out by The Asylum, it was pretty corny. The only actor of any note at all is Faran Tahir, who plays the airliner's captain, and is the same actor who played the captain in the first few minutes of 2009's STAR TREK reboot. Aside from him, it is the usual cast of C-grade direct-to-video/streaming talent, some of whom do a decent job with what they have to work with, while others are just cringe-worthy. The SFX were actually pretty good, which says something about a "shoestring budget" movie studio being able to put German fighter planes into dogfights, or depict an entire city being bombed to rubble.

Plot-wise...well...things get rough. A 757 en route from Dulles to Heathrow flies through an "anomaly" and winds up in June 17th, 1940. They overfly a city being bombed, and a couple of history professors (WW2 buffs, of course) identify some German bombers, and that the city is on the coast, but we also see an Me262 do a fly-by of the airliner. The history nerds surmise that the city is St. Nazaire (thus the date), but are boggled that the German jet fighters are operational in 1940, about four years before they'd take to the air in force. And, after contacting a British radio operator, they find out that the Dunkirk evacuation was a complete disaster, resulting in the loss of half a million people (in reality, it was the exact opposite). In addition, they learn that the British don't even have working radar systems - they're still in development (again, not true to actual history).

After some confused head-scratching, the nerds postulate that they've fallen into an alternate timeline, where the Germans are much more technologically advanced at this point in the war, having operational jet fighters while the British don't even have radar. The Germans attack the airliner several times in the hopes of shooting it down, but the pilot manages to avoid death (the 757 somehow survives dozens of 30mm cannon shell hits, but hey...Hollywood, am I right?). The British are worried that, if the airliner *does* have radar (the way in which all this gets concluded is very odd), they must shoot the plane down to prevent the Germans from possessing it and getting even more of an advantage. Eventually, the airliner crew cut the radar free from the nose of the plane, drop it down to the British, who then use it (!!!) to direct Spitfires out to defend the airliner just before the plane flies through another anomaly and back into our normal timeline.

I'd like to point out that, as ridiculous as this plot is, a half-decent film could have been salvaged from this wreckage. The 1980 film THE FINAL COUNTDOWN postulates what might happen if a 1980s era aircraft carrier wound up in the Pacific just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. With the premise of FLIGHT WORLD WAR II, a story of how a modern airliner (with its far superior air radar), as well as two nerds who know everything about the war, could turn history around in an alternate past where the Germans are clearly dominating even more than they were in our own 1940.

EDIT: Apparently modern airliners don't carry any kind of radar, relying on their transponders and Air Traffic Control systems to guide them around potential hazards. So, basically, this movie is pointless when it comes to the whole radar angle.

But instead, things are just bungled. My biggest complaint is that the plane flies across the Atlantic and winds up over the French coast. Fine - no big deal. They even claim at one point to have (I think), just under half of a full fuel load. I just looked it up, and Dulles to Heathrow is a little under 3,700 miles, while the 757 has a range of around 4,500 miles. So, this jet winds up over St. Nazaire with about 800 miles of fuel left - certainly a lot less than "just under half a tank". However, any pilot will know that if you're somewhere near the coast of France, just pointing your plane north and flying for (in this case) about half an hour will put you over England, at a 757's cruising speed of a bit over 500 miles an hour.

Instead, somehow, this plane spends the entire movie flying *east*. At one point they even figure out they're near (IIRC) Reims, which is to the north-east of St. Nazaire by several hundred miles, and at another point they're near Metz, *four hundred* miles from St. Nazaire. Hey, guys! You're going the wrong way! And, what makes things weirder, by the time they are near Metz and drop the radar system, it is picked up by British forces after a brief firefight against some Germans, and within a couple of minutes, it is in the hands of the radio operator they've been talking to the entire time. So, apparently, despite Dunkirk being a total slaughter, this radio operator is *hundreds of miles* behind what are now the enemy lines? How does this even make any sense? Even if the radio operator was behind enemy lines and the salvation of the war effort was to get radar into the hands of the British, the operator should have just said "Fly north for half an hour and get to Blighty, you bloody fools!". The British are even trying to shoot the airliner down "to keep the radar from the Germans". You know how you could also do that? Tell them to fly to England. Shooting down a great big, obviously not the usual 1940s prop plane, over enemy territory is probably the worst thing they could do!

At one point, one of the passengers tries to take over the plane, insisting that, with the help of the history nerds and their books, they could find and kill Hitler and re-write history. An Army sergeant flying aboard the plane talks sense into him and the rest of the passengers, pointing out that pulling something like that off is highly unlikely, and the most likely scenario is them letting both the airplane, the history nerds, and all their history books fall into the hands of the Nazis, making everything worse. This was probably the moment of the film that made the most sense.

To conclude, this movie was more disappointing as a story than it was as a technical production. I'll always give The Asylum a pass on production values and acting - all that requires a lot of money and time, which they don't really have - but a good script and a plot that makes sense just requires a competent storyteller and a modicum of research. This movie *could* have been made on the same budget, with the same cast and production values, and made a lot more sense.


Charles Gramlich said...

The anomaly thing has been pretty much done to death by now. It can lead to interesting stories. Sounds like this one didn't quite fit the bill

Anonymous said...

Planes do carry radar, weather radar! Tuned specifically it would be able to detect other aircraft. Not sure where you get your information from. For example:

Anonymous said...

Remind me again how the plane was able to fly in darkness and cloud without instruments assuming an average of about 1.5 minutes of flight under those conditions before auguring in. Pilots, don't say... easy, just step on the ball.

And let me get this straight. A jet from the future wants to bring the Brits radar and no one besides the Brit radio operator is interested enough to actually be present for the radio transmissions? They send up planes and a missile on the say-so of the young operator? But still no one else is present at the radio?

There are cutting tools and expertise to pull out the weather radar components in the aircraft nose, and the radio operator knows how to power it up and interpret the signals though he's never seen a radar before? And still no Brit officer cares to have a look? I'm trying to picture the pilot saying, yes, lets cut out the only instrument we have working in the cockpit that might get us home. Why not just have aliens intervene if logic plays no part in this?

Hopefully the radar's large scale integrated computer circuits don't impede the manufacture of new Brit radars.

Jeff said...

The airport shown at the end where they finally land is supposed to be Berlin, yet there is a WestJet aircraft seen in the background. WestJet doesn't fly to Berlin!

Anonymous said...

The Messerschmitt 262 fighter jet seen in the first 5 minutes of this movie first flew in combat in 1944. Common knowledge. Bad research.

Anonymous said...

The Langoliers is a better anomaly movie

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah and a 757 can outmaneuver a FIGHTER JET?? Man. Also, when they drop the radar they pull a door off the side of the jet. 1 they would get ripped out of the aircraft due to pressure and wind. 2 Slightly later in the movie, a Me 262 crashes into the side of the airliner, and it just creates a small hole the size of a DOOR and two passengers are sucked out of the plane. Whereas the DOOR sized DOOR does nothing of the sort. SO MANY aeronautical errors! Just ask an expert!

Chris Jones said...

Not to mention, the 757's top speed is 610 mph, while the ME 262's is 559. Why didn't the pilot simply outrun the fighters?

Devin Duclos Duclos said...

I find it extremely surprising that a spitfire can catch up with ME262s in enemy territory and shoot them down with ease. Also, the 262 pilots were overly clumsy compared to real life.