‘Air’ Review | Robert Kirkman’s Breath Wish
Best known for his work on the seminal video game Red Dead Redemption, writer and filmmaker Christian Cantamessa makes a stunning directorial debut with his new movie, Air. Set in an apocalyptic future where the Earth has become uninhabitable, mankind has chronologically frozen their best and brightest for the time when humans can once again go outside. Until then, they are stored in an underground facility, and are attended to by maintenance workers, Bauer (Norman Reedus) and Cartwright (Djimon Hounsou). When a problem occurs with their equipment, secrets are revealed between the two co-workers that could jeopardize the fate of the entire human race.
On the surface, the movie has a lot in common with The Walking Dead, which shouldn’t be a big surprise since it stars Reedus and was produced by Robert Kirkman. But besides that, Air‘s post-apocalyptic theme certainly seems familiar, as is its primary underground setting. Fans of The Walking Dead will probably find the new movie’s set to be reminiscent of the CDC scenes featured in the last two episodes of the show’s first season. However, despite all of the similarities and coincidences between the new film and the hit show, Cantamessa still managed to craft an original story and execute it with style, character development, and smart pacing.
Norman Reedus and Djimon Hounsou play off each other like the seasoned actors they are, in what is pretty much a two-man show. Hounsou is widely considered one of the better actors of his generation, and his on-screen stature and gravitas shows you why. He is especially good in this role, and is really the emotional core of the film. That being said, Reedus is an excellent partner for Hounsou in contrast. He is loud and explosive, to Hounsou’s strong but quite demeanor. While there are certainly some similarities between Air’s Bauer and The Walking Dead’s Daryl Dixon, they are completely different characters and Reedus’ excellent performance constantly reminds you of that.
Air succeeds where many sci-fi movies fail, by making an unbelievable story completely believable. It’s also relatable, and while we never find out exactly why the Earth has become inhabitable, one can assume that it involves global warming. In a summer where Californians are frantically conserving water, Air might hit closer to home than one would initially think. It’s also suspenseful drama, with the interactions between the two main characters unraveling like a well-rehearsed stage play. The story does begin somewhat slow, but picks up the pace as time goes on. This allows the audience a chance to really get to know these characters and become emotionally invested in their plights. So when the final plot twist is revealed, we care about the end result, which does not always happen in genre movies.
When all is said and done, Air does not reinvent the genre, nor does it attempt to, but it does tell a compelling science fiction story. The plot is solid, even if it is based on common genre tropes, and Cantamessa’s unique visual touches are felt throughout. Based on his video game resume and his debut film, I’m very interested in following Cantamessa’s career and seeing what he could do with a bigger budgeted genre movie. Heck, it would just be great to see him direct an episode of The Walking Dead. After all, he does know many of the people involved in that series, and I think his aesthetic would fit well with that show.
Finally, I would also like to congratulate Robert Kirkman for having the guts to back Cantamessa and produce this film. With the success that Kirkman is having right now in the comic book industry and on television, many people in his position would probably be afraid to risk putting their name on a first time director’s film, especially one that is so similar on the surface to their own work. But Kirkman had no fear, showing that he has a real sense of what his audience wants. This could be the beginning of the next step in Kirkman’s already impressive career, where he becomes the Judd Apatow of genre projects, using his Hollywood status to give other young filmmakers an opportunity that they would otherwise not have. With Air, Walking Dead fans might love it just because it has the powerful Kirkman stamp of approval, but they will also discover that it is a very smart, well acted, and entertaining genre movie.