Air (2015)

(On Cable TV, February 2016) The best way to make a low-budget film is to reduce the number of characters and location, and suggest a lot of things happening out-of-frame. Air seems to take this intention to the limit with a cast of four real characters (plus a few voices and TV appearances), taking place in a 1970s-style bunker and darkened corridors. Through effective exposition, it sets up a world in which the air has been poisoned and a few hundred survivors have been cryogenically preserved in underground installations. Two workers are periodically wakened from their slumber to check the quality of the air and perform routine maintenance on the installations. After a predictably dull start, things quickly boil up when the equipment is damaged, a bad case of bunker fever settles in and the characters decide to go check what’s happening in a nearby bunker. The reduced cast allows for bigger names, and so Djimon Honsou, Norman Reedus and Sandrine Holt are the stars of the film. Despite a reasonably good premise, the film eventually bogs down in a series of repetitive scenes in which two men threaten each other with guns and run through a deserted installation. It ends pretty much as expected, although the coda is quite good in its own way. Air may be remarkable more for the way it uses a small budget to deliver a claustrophobic tale of men contemplating the extinction of humanity and wondering what they’re doing is merely prolonging the inevitable. It definitely has its limits otherwise, but it does by decently as long as you accept its budget-driven premise.

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