March 27, 2020

THE CAPTAIN: Just Like Grandma Used to Make
Starring Zhang Hanyu, Oho Ou, Du Jiang, Yuan Quan, Zhang Tian’ai, Li Qin. Directed by Andrew Lau. (111 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

It’s probably prudent to start this review by professing my love of disaster movies. Ever since seeing the original Airport on TV as a kid, it has been my favorite genre, even though I’m well-aware a most of them aren’t exactly created to challenge the intellect or compete for the Palme d’Or. With a few exceptions, I’ve enjoyed every disaster movie ever made, good, bad and ugly. So yeah, some might be inclined to take my review of The Captain with a grain of salt. On the other hand, who better to assess the merits of a new disaster movie than a guy who’s seen them all?

Okay, not literally all, but enough to know some of the best recent ones have come from overseas, such as Norway’s The Wave, South Korea’s The Tower and the gloriously-bonkers Russian hand-wringer, The Crew. The Captain is an air disaster thriller that hails from China, and although it’s based on a true incident that occurred just a year earlier, the film is a welcome throwback to the genre’s Golden Age, the 1970s.

"Jesus, somebody open a window!"
While stoic Captain Liu Changjian (Zhang Hanyu) is the central protagonist, the film features a large ensemble of passengers and crew, providing just enough exposition about each for the viewer to be concerned about their safety (or hope they get sucked out a window). During a routine flight, Flight 8633’s windshield implodes at 30,000 feet, incapacitating the co-pilot and decompressing the entire plane. Because they are over a mountain range, they are unable to descend to a level safe enough to equalize the cabin pressure, meaning they’re forced to fly dangerously close to the snowy peaks as a severe storm is approaching. Captain Changjian must decide whether to risk trying to reach their destination or turn back.

There was once a time when disaster films weren’t driven entirely by special effects. Though the CGI in The Captain is certainly up-to-snuff, the film recalls such old-school classics as The High and the Mighty, Airport and Zero Hour, which emphasized drama and suspense over spectacle. Similarly, this one efficiently establishes the setting and players – in the air and on the ground – before presenting a simple crisis with ominous implications. As such, the film is gripping and suspenseful, as well as a bit melodramatic and corny at times. In other words, it’s the kind of good old-fashioned disaster flick that Grandma used to make.

My only complaint is the film goes on longer than it needs to, with an unnecessarily extended epilogue after everything’s been resolved. Other than that, The Captain is director Andrew Lau’s first good movie in a long time and an exciting ride for fans of the genre. Then again, I’ve always had a soft spot for these things.


No comments: