PLOT: Two engineers in a remote shelter find themselves at odds while trying to preserve the last of mankind.
REVIEW: There is promise in the Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) produced science fiction thriller film AIR starring Norman Reedus and Djimon Hounsou. The very concept of breathable air becoming extinct is a fascinating one, and the two main actors certainly have talent to bring into the mix. Yet somehow, after about twenty minutes or so, the mystery wears thin. The reasons why the two men are locked in some shelter becomes rather predictable with only a hint of tension. Even when the score seems to desperately want to generate some sort of intensity, it is usually met with a shrug. This is not a bad film, just a slow and meandering one. It is easy to figure out exactly where it is going if youíve ever watched any similarly themed story of claustrophobia and end of the world happenings.
We first meet Bauer (Reedus) and Cartwright (Hounsou) as they awake from a peaceful sleep inside some sort of chamber. Where they are and who they are is unknown, but one thing is for sure, they are far away from any semblance of civilization. It is soon revealed that the two men are engineers on watch, guarding what appears to be the last of humanity. As they both deal with their situation, it becomes apparent that secrets are being kept. Cartwright imagines [or does he] a beautiful woman (Sandrine Holt) that appears only to him. Things get complicated after a near tragic mistake and the two men find themselves losing trust in each other. Throughout this hour and a half feature, both men fight, joke and ramble about the severity of their mission.
Weíve seen some pretty phenomenal science fiction the past few years. So much so that it is hard to see anything truly original or thought provoking about AIR. Co-written and directed by Christian Cantamessa - along with Chris Pasetto - there is a lifeless energy here. Best known for writing the popular video games Red Dead Redemption and Manhunt - as well as a few shorts - I was at least impressed that he attempted a cerebral approach to the material. However, neither character is all that engaging or worth investing in. Rarely do we see much humanity in either of the two survivors. Both Bauer and Cartwright felt just as routine as the job they are assigned to do.
Norman Reedus is an intensely charismatic actor - as The Walking Dead fans can attest to - but here he has very little to do aside from crack jokes and get angry. The same can be said for Hounsou. These are two talented actors, both of whom do a fine job with what they have. Unfortunately this hour and a half is far too repetitive and predictable to really create an impactful performance for either of the two. There is one scene early on where one of the men is nearly killed and it is possibly the only truly unnerving scene in the film. For a moments, it creates a bit of a jolt, but not enough of one. And as their mistrust for each other unfolds, it is far from compelling as itís not hard to figure out exactly where all of this is going.
AIR is not necessarily a terrible film, itís just not a very interesting one. Cantamessa created a somewhat striking movie with what appears to be a limited budget. And you have to give him credit for not revealing too much early on. Itís just a shame that there is very little life in this routine science fiction thriller. The stock characters heading in predictable directions moves along slowly, without tension and very little surprise. If you are a fan of either of the leading actors, this may be worth checking out on cable or Netflix. Perhaps with lowered expectation you may find yourself fine with the slow build and the inevitable finale. AIR is a routine work of fiction that offers few surprises and a couple of decent performances.