William Devane in Freefall: Flight 174 (1995)

A Bumpy Ride

When ever I discover another made for TV flight movie the only thing I expect is that it will be average at best, I never have high expectations even when it features one of my favourite actors. So when I came across "Freefall: Flight 174" a movie from the 90s about a real event which happened during the 80s my expectations were as you expect low even though it stars William Devane. Turns out my expectations were right as whilst an interesting movie which sees a pilot forced to land a commercial plane dead stick it is not the most convincing as there is no major drama or panic and left me feeling under whelmed.

As the engineers prep a brand new plane they struggle with the fuel conversion as the system operates in kilograms rather than pounds and with a fuel gauge inoperable they have to rely on manual calculations. It turns out that there calculations were wrong as during the flight the fuel warning lights start flashing leaving Capt. Bob Pearson (William Devane - Yanks) and co-pilot Maurice Quintal (Scott Hylands) along with an engineer travelling with his wife to work out what is going on. With the flight diverted to Winnipeg they soon realise they have no fuel and no electrics as well leaving Bob to try and glide the plane in and land it dead stick.

Scott Hylands in Freefall: Flight 174 (1995)

So not only is it nearly 20 years since "Freefall: Flight 174" was made but it is also nearly 30 years since the true story unfolded and as such I have no idea of how true to what really happened this movie is. Actually I can guess how true it is as "Freefall: Flight 174" is made very much in the style of a typical disaster movie where we have various passengers aboard the plane, from a loved up couple, a fearful wife, the obligatory engineer as well as a nasty businessman. Now there is nothing really wrong with doing that as I am sure most of the drama of the true story unfolded in the cockpit and the control tower but it does make it cliche and weak cliche because these characters are not fleshed out enough.

But as I said the real focus of the drama is in the cockpit and the endeavours of the pilots to deal with a plane which they discover has no fuel. Unfortunately this is where the movie is a let down because not only do we get far too much cheesy dialogue but there are no real effects, a few flashing buttons but that for the most is it. But the worst thing is that everyone seems so calm, Captain Bob calmly handles the plane, smiling most of the time, Rick the engineer has a calm smile on his face and basically none of it rings true especially when most plane disaster movies tend to have a real sense of panic about them. It means that whilst "Freefall: Flight 174" stars William Devane, one of my favourite actors, his character and various others just never really convince of being in difficulty.

What this all boils down to is that "Freefall: Flight 174" ends up an under whelming plane disaster movie which not only lacks the tension this sort of movie demands but also often feels quite cheesy do to the general lack of panic.