Film Review: Rough Air: Danger on Flight 534

Plain Disasters. The movies in which pretty much everyone is either guaranteed to survive or die depending on the outcome (Airplane 77 being one of the few exceptions). This film has a death count of one. Regardless, it’s quite slickly produced and does well with its low-budget roots.

The Premise

Someone forgets to shut the door on the plane. Oops!

The Disasters Faced

Decompressing planes, a serial killer on the loose and NO SCOTCH LEFT ONBOARD!!!

The Execution

Rough Air is a TV movie but aside from the typical TV movie score, it manages to conceal this by never extending itself too far in the technical department. Besides, a shaky camera and lots of flinging yourself about in these films goes a long way. The first 20 minutes introduces us to a motley crew of characters including the abrasive drunk, the ditzy stewardess, the “gnarly” students and convicted killer. Of course the leading duo of stewardess and shamed pilot have broken up. You know their love will be affirmed within the next ninety minutes. All in all, it’s a real classic era set up and its this that carries the film through as each of the stories unfold when the cargo door opens. From there it’s down to trying to land the plane with wonky controls, low fuel and a huge open cargo door. With competent acting, a relatively tight script and some heavily cliche characters, the film speeds through to its finale.

The Effects

Outside shots of the plane are used sparingly but the actual decompression of the plane is handled quite well albeit with nothing new added to the formula.

Why It’s Worth Watching

The characters are silly and one-dimensional apart from the unusual yet still predictable arc for the killer. Aside from that, the movie is a tight 84 minutes and with the script at its camp best, I was entertained throughout.

Best Death

There’s only one death and that’s the serial killer who ends up being the man to sacrifice himself to save the rest. How beautiful!

Favourite Character

There’s a few likeable characters but I’ll go for Roger Lee (Russell Yuen) for being an all round nice guy while his new wife spends the entire moving screaming randomly. Second up is Carlo Rota for a really miserable portrayal of Cal.

Weirdest Moment

Despite some logic lapses I think the best part is when the entire plane decides to scream when they see the runway approach. It’s just so overly camp, it’s great. That’s the followed by the end sequence where an absolutely stupid man stands and watches a plane slowly roll towards him and his office building gormless. It’s utterly stupid.


Camp? Check! Cliche characters? Check! Everyone clearly lapping up the hammy scenario? Check! That to me makes a solid disaster movie. While it doesn’t have big effects, it plays to its strengths of a decent cast and is just as enjoyable as Airplane.


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