27 October 2012 | fung0
Way Ahead of Its Time
It's not easy to catch up with this marvelous little film, but DO NOT pass up any chance you get. It's a real little gem, which manages to live up to some very high aspirations.
A quick plot synopsis makes it sound very much like Airport, or The High and the Mighty, but Jet Storm is a very different type of film. It's not an adventure, or a soaper, or a suspenser. Although it does include a diverse group of passengers and a hidden bomb, it's not actually about whether the plane will be saved, or how. It's about how these people react to danger. And about how all of us SHOULD react to danger.
The cast of familiar British actors does a superb job. Richard Attenborough shines in his portrayal of a weak, confused man, who's slipped over the brink of bitterness, depression and madness. Harry Secombe adds a contrastingly jovial note. And a young Paul Eddington (best known from the much later Yes, Minister series) is interesting as a not-very-admirable husband.
We learn a lot about these various characters, but the real meat of the film is in how each of them reacts when faced with imminent danger and probable death. The film asks us not to worry so much about whether these people will die, but to consider how they choose to live. Do they meet fear and uncertainty with fortitude? Resourcefulness? Humor? Resignation? Or even indifference?
The film shows us that some of these responses are clearly better than others. It demonstrates that the fear of disaster is far worse than the disaster itself. This message makes Jet Storm more relevant today than when it was made. We can see how much wiser things were in the 1950s. A psychopath would have been able to walk up and easily place a bomb on an airliner... but we didn't allow that remote possibility to dominate our lives.
Jet Storm reminds us that risk is a part of life, but when we focus on that risk to the exclusion of everything else, we stop living. So while terrorism (of any sort) is sad, and crazy and reprehensible, giving in to terror is far more shameful.