Jet Storm stars the late great Richard Attenborough in one of his finest roles. He plays Ernest Tilly a father so overcome by grief that he is hell bent on revenge. Tilly finds out the name of the driver who killed his daughter in a hit and run incident and decides to board the same plane as him with a bomb. It is on the plane that the other passengers and the captain find out about his plan to take the plane down.
Apart from some minor issues with sound, hands touching microphones, talking too close to a microphone (that sort of thing) and the long shots of the plane (obvious model aeroplane against a backdrop) this film, first released in 1959, could fit in with modern cinema.
Unfortunately, in this day and age, terrorism is a very real threat and we are very aware that there could be a bomb threat or reports of a bomb on a plane on any given day. In Jet Storm this is not the case. The passengers are alerted to the fact that plane contains a bomb but instead of panicking or causing an uproar they decide to let the captain deal with it and try and diffuse the situation. This does make the film slightly unbelievable but because the acting is brilliantly suited to the period in which it was shot, you forgive that it isn’t like the action filled ‘bomb on a plane’ films that we are used to now.
Richard Attenborough plays the role of Ernest Tilly beautifully. He has enough madness in his eyes (portrayed by some very long stares) and he pitches his voice perfectly to give the character the perfect amount of ‘crazy’ to commit the crime as well as the perfect amount of humanity so that the audience don’t immediately hate the character for what he is doing to the other passengers. Hermione Badeley (Mary Poppins) is also worth mentioning, her portrayal of a busy body who likes to rile everybody up and find out what’s happening keeps the story moving along at a very good pace.
The film is very typical of the era in which it was shot. The characters are all smartly dressed and they all talk in a very polite way. The passengers on the plane are what actually make the film as you spend most of the time with them. To name a few, there is Ernest and his wife, a comedic couple who are going through a divorce and find a novel way to sort out who gets what, a busy body, a family with a young boy and a lady who is pretty and dressed provatically but has a heart of gold. Being a thriller there is a lot of tension and suspense, but cleverly interwined along the way is certain comedic elements. The divorced couple playing Gin to find out who is going to gain what items in the divorce is a particularly nice touch to break up some of the heavier scenes.
Jet Storm is also indicative of what was known about air travel at the time. There is mention of the air pressure early on in the film and it is then reiterated later when the hit and run driver smashes a window and gets sucked through it. At the time it must have been a terrifying thing for the audience to watch and it may well have caused people not to fly, but watching that scene now doesn’t quite stir up the same emotions, it is definitely not the plane crash scene in Final Destination that’s for sure. That being said the plot and the acting more than makes up for the lack of “action”.
Dir: Cy Endfield
Scr: Cy Endfield, Sigmund Miller
Starring: Richard Attenborough, Stanley Baker, Hermione Baddeley
Prd: Steven Pallos
DOP: Jack Hildyard
Music: Thomas Rajna
Run time: 88 mins
Jet Storm is available on DVD from 17 August 2015.