It all begins rather routinely.  A flight scheduled from Berlin to Paris.  An empty plane.  The crew enters.  German pilot and American copilot enter the cockpit and begin their preparations.  The flight attendants enter the main cabin and begin theirs. One of the flight attendants brings food and water to the cockpit.  Another of the flight attendants whispers in the ear of the co-pilot; it seems they are talking about househunting together.

            Later, as the passengers begin boarding, the pilot and the co-pilot, who don't seem to know each other, exchange some lighthearted remarks about the flight attendant.  Turns out she's more than a love interest; she's a fiancee; they have a two-year-old son together.  The pilot is contacted by ground control about a possible delay due to two passengers being late to board, though their luggage is already stowed in the baggage compartment.  The pilot faces a quick decision whether he will delay takeoff, but then the two passengers suddenly appear.  Is this the anamoly we're expecting to happen?

            No.  But it is a foreshadowing.  What seems routine will quickly turn into chaos.  After takeoff, somehow the cockpit door opens, and both pilot and co-pilot are attacked.  Both suffer wounds, but manage to (temporarily) overcome their attackers, and get the door closed again.  There's more of the hijackers outside, banging on the door.  They're apparently armed with “shivs”, homemade knives made out of jagged glass, which apparently slipped through all the security mechanisms.

            The co-pilot, Tobias (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sends a “7500” message, code for an active hijacking.  He's wounded in his left arm, but manages to ask ground control for permission to undertake an emergency landing in Hanover.  But the hijackers that are still outside the cockpit are threatening to kill hostages unless he lets them inside.  Of course, that includes his fiancee.

            What follows is one of those tight little dramas where you can almost smell the sweat and the fear and the blood.  Tobias makes the mistake of checking the monitor outside the cockpit, even though he knows he can't allow anyone to come in, no matter how much banging and screaming he hears.  He even begs the passengers to come forward themselves to fight the hijackers, and we think what we need here are a couple of fearless Marines.

            Yes, it's difficult for all of us think of airplane hijackers without being reminded of 9/11, the watershed moment when international terrorism came to our shores, and our security procedures were forever altered.  It's also difficult to generate any sympathy for any of the hijackers, but how about if one is very young, and cries when he gets a call on his cell phone from his Mother?

            You would expect a hijacking scenario to not indulge in a happily-ever-ending, and this one is no exception.  It is, however, starkly real, and feels like it could happen tomorrow.  We're just all hoping it won't.


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association