Oceanic Flight 420 is travelling from Heathrow to JFK over the North Atlantic Ocean. The flight is going smoothly until a mysterious group of men hijack the plane using firearms. Meanwhile, at the National Security Agency, the staff discovered the plane’s transponder network has failed, leading to the suspicion that something terrible has gone wrong with the flight. Director Hawkins (Alec Baldwin) is overseeing the situation, and he begins to question various possibilities, including the state of the plane’s fail-safe, which is also disengaged. With the fail-safe out of action, the plane cannot land safely, and the Agency can’t take control of the aircraft by any means. The Agency is at a loss. Five armed hijackers are on board, and no demands have yet been made. To make matters worse, the plane’s fuel will run out within the next 97 minutes.
But on the same hijacked plane, there is an asset. Onboard the aeroplane, Tyler (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) wakes up after being knocked out and is instantly surrounded by chaos. He finds people on board with weapons and civilians who need urgent help, including the pilot, who is on the floor and bleeding significantly. Tyler begins to sneak around, finding dead bodies and even helping a few nearby people, such as a doctor. Tyler also tries to find some supplies, such as a medical kit. Soon, we learn that Tyler is, in fact, an undercover Interpol agent pretending to be one of the hijackers. Now, while playing both sides, Tyler is doing everything he can to try and save the aeroplane and all the passengers. However, at the National Security Office, Director Hawkins is demanding a code orange be activated, which means the plane will be gunned down to save the many civilians on the ground.
97 Minutes is best described as a thriller with some minor action moments. Thankfully, the opening introduces some fun, including its premise and concept, along with the general look of the plane while Tyler is sneaking around. The introduction to Tyler waking up in all the chaos is exciting, along with the significant reveal that Tyler is undercover and is now the plane’s only chance of survival.
However, despite a few pleasing aspects throughout the duration, the film suffers from a few problems. The film is poorly edited between scenes and carries weak side performances. The musical score is forgettable and extremely bland. 97 Minutes is also dialogue-heavy, with many characters talking about how disastrous the main situation is and how they can turn it around for the better. Passengers in the background seem far too calm, given the problem, which is also odd. Performance-wise, actor Alec Baldwin seems disengaged with this film, almost like he was forced to do it. Thankfully, Tyler, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, is doing as much as possible on screen. Still, his character and introduction are vague, failing to give audiences a reason to care about his mission. Ironically enough, the film is titled 97 Minutes, yet the runtime is only 93 Minutes.
Overall, 97 Minutes has a great concept as a story and has some neat visuals, including the plane layout and aspects relating to technology. Sadly, while actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers is doing as much as possible on-screen, his character introduction is vague, leaving viewers uninvested. Alec Baldwin is also a soft factor and seems uninterested emotionally as he delivers forced lines of dialogue. Given the premise and situation of a hijacked plane, many characters here seem emotionless, and edits between scenes feel clunky. Ultimately, it’s a film that lacks excitement, energy, or anything that is gripping, even when the twists are revealed. Instead, it’s a bland experience with plenty of talking around computer screens or watching one man sneaking around an aeroplane.
97 Minutes (2022) is Available on DVD & Digital from September 13th.