Studio: STX Films
Director: Mikael Marcimain
Writer: Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken
Producer: Fredrik Wikstrom Nicastro
Stars: Allison Williams, Alexander Dreymon, Keith David
A couple with a complicated relationship fights for survival aboard an airborne plane after their pilot suddenly dies.
Let¡¯s start with straight facts. ¡°Horizon Line¡± comes from STX Films, an indie media company specializing in mid-budget movies anchored around one star. In this case, that one star is Allison Williams, who isn¡¯t a ¡°puts butts in seats¡± A-lister, yet provides enough of a name that people will at least hear that this film exists. Versatile veteran Keith David¡¯s ¡°and¡± appearance underwrites additional assurance that genre fans will pay attention, and can reasonably count on some semblance of quality or curiosity whenever he is involved. After debuting overseas with no one noticing, ¡°Horizon Line¡± went straight to North American VOD with minimal peeps of publicity in January, a month notorious for ¡°we don¡¯t have faith in this¡± dumps and ¡°roll the dice¡± DTVers with little to lose in the first place.
Taking everything above, ¡°Horizon Line¡± turns out to be precisely what you would think. A low-risk proposition for producers as well as viewers, it¡¯s a basic B-movie following a safe formula for easy, breezy ¡°in one ear and immediately out the other¡± entertainment. Attractive actors. Simple premise. No deeper than it needs to be. Efficient technical polish and the lush landscapes of shooting Ireland for Indian Ocean islands tell you this was probably a project for journeymen professionals who wanted to squeeze a little vacation into two weeks of by-the-book union work they could do in their sleep.
Versatile though he may be, it seems one thing Keith David cannot do is convincingly mimic an islander accent. Luckily, he¡¯s Keith David, so it doesn¡¯t matter. Plus, he dies only seven minutes after first appearing onscreen, so he also isn¡¯t around long. That¡¯s still plenty of time for David to effortlessly create a charming personality when he¡¯s really just playing the part of a plot device. Again, he¡¯s Keith David. That¡¯s what greatness does.
David¡¯s quick death puts the plot into motion, though that bucket kick doesn¡¯t actually occur until 25 minutes into the movie. When his pilot character keels over en route to a destination wedding, Allison Williams and co-star Alexander Dreymon are left to their own improvisation to figure out how to fly a plane with no navigation, no radio, and dwindling fuel.
Williams and Dreymon play Sara Johnson and Jackson Davison, plain names indicative of writers patching a story together in ten days while simultaneously acknowledging its averageness. She¡¯s a career woman whose yearlong getaway in Mauritius resulted in a romance she wasn¡¯t ready for. That makes him an inconvenient lover left in the lurch when Sara¡¯s fear of commitment compels her to skip town without saying goodbye. One year later, Sara returns to the island for a friend¡¯s nuptials. Running into Jackson results in a chilly reunion with the potential to spark into something else. And what better way to bond than fighting for your lives 10,000 feet in the air above the middle of nowhere?
Given the nature of such setups, Jackson is of course a headshot handsome dude flexing steeled abs in shirtless scenes. But Dreymon makes it so Jackson reads as a well-meaning good guy rather than another athletic gigolo. Sara can be seen as a jerk for jilting him due to her own insecurities, but her characterization could be worse too. Williams has built-in charisma to compensate for that flaw, and the movie makes a modest effort to balance Sara¡¯s bad behavior with Jackson vaguely forcing a choice between him or her dream job. Basically, the necessary amount of chemistry exists so that while they may not be robustly realized characters, Sara and Jackson are a fair puff above being completely hollow people.
It becomes easy to be on their side because, not only is their conflict not totally tiresome, they¡¯re also shown to be surprisingly smart. Cynics could accuse ¡°Horizon Line¡¯s¡± slim story of relying too much on serendipity to keep it spinning. No more than any other movie in this niche however. Sara and Jackson come up with some crafty tricks like using a watch and makeshift compass to plot their path without computerized GPS. Their resourcefulness and repeated displays of faith-in-each-other courage put them well ahead of similar characters in their subgenre¡¯s weight class.
Naturally, there are only so many ways a small plane can encounter catastrophic trouble in an hour. More than likely, you can think of all of those ways simply from having seen so many copycat movies. ¡°Horizon Line¡± thinks of all of them too, and still comes up short on nailbiting scenarios. The solution is to do everything twice. Two sudden nosedives. Two cliffhanger climbs across the plane¡¯s exterior to address fuel tank issues. Spaces between get filled with earthquake camera B-roll of hands squeezing flight controls and so on. It¡¯s fluff you can watch on fast-forward and the only side effect is how much faster the film will evaporate from your memory than it would when you watch it normally.
The only fair score is 50/100. If you haven¡¯t seen the movie, but have read this review, you already know which side of that slash you¡¯re going to fall. ¡°Horizon Line¡± is exactly what¡¯s advertised by the one-sentence summary, compact cast, nondescript artwork, and every other common clue sunning itself in the open air. When you make a choice to watch a throwaway thriller like this one, you know what you¡¯re getting into. Whether that¡¯s good or bad to you, ¡°Horizon Line¡± caters to expectations.
Review Score: 50