Set in an all too convincing future where nuclear and chemical warfare has killed the majority of the population and rendered the earth uninhabitable Air takes place in one of the few facilities deep underground devoted to the survival of the human race.
Set in an abandoned missile silo where America’s top scientists are keep in suspended animation till the planets air is breathable again we are introduced to caretakers Bauer (Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus) and Cartwright (Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Djimon Hounsou) whose life is dedicated to keeping the ‘sleepers’ alive by performing a series of tedious and repetitive checks every so often between bouts of hyper sleep.
Like chalk and cheese the jovial and cynical Bauer who sees his role as nothing but a menial job broken up by reading girly mags, watching old baseball games and news reports constantly ribs the more serious and dedicated Cartwright who is eager to figure out when they can free their charges and return to something like a normal life.
Undenounced to his colleague Cartwright’s concerns may have more to do with his obsession with one of the female scientists who he sees and talks too questioning his sanity and the safety of everyone in his care however when an accident puts both their lives in immediate danger the clock starts ticking till their air is gone and humanities hopes are lost.
Although not an entirely original plot line (see The Colony, Silent Running and The Divide for a few interesting variations on this theme) Air is very well scripted and directed both by first time film maker Christian Cantamessa.
Having previously penned a variety of computer games including the tremendously well plotted Red Dead Redemption, which proves the value of a good story in elevating a gamers overall experience, Cantamessa is adept to creating complex characters and Air’s two unlikely leads are anything but the dull drones implied by their positions post apocalypse.
Neither wholly good or evil both Bauer and Cartwright carry their own personal demons displaying survivors guilt, paranoia and the mental stresses of a total loss of hope that would creep up on anyone working in the insane situation they have found themselves in.
Existing like they are playing a real world never-ending freemium mobile game there is also a fascinating class conflict at work demonstrated by the lowly life the pair have signed up to and the lofty position given to the fabled scientist who will allegedly rebuild America into a utopia come the correct time.
Cartwright almost worships these saviors especially Abby (Sandrine Holt) who he constantly hallucinates guiding him to a future where they will finally be together whereas Bauer sees them as no more important than himself or his friend highlighting the irony of the brainy bod’s continued existence only being possible because of the undervalued and put upon pair.
The film has a brilliant retro look with the bunker seemingly straight out of the Cold War complete with outmoded computers, no spare parts and failing systems again a much more realistic vision of the future against the hyper stylish and infallible settings of other Sci-Fi films.
Steeped in tension the claustrophobic interiors reflect the literally increasing suffocating situation the duo are placed in and the oppressive atmosphere that descends onto them driving them both to breaking point by the films climax.
Far more interesting than your average Sci-Horror with plenty of depth and dread Air combines two brilliant actors playing highly engaging characters with a solid script well reaslised by its creator bringing a breath of fresh air to what could have been an otherwise clichéd movie.