The plane-in-peril plotline has been done to death, but this briskly directed thriller makes the best of the formula with a gripping back-story about the bomber's motivation. Pilot John Prescott (Jack Wagner) and co-pilot Kim McGee (Christine Elise) are expecting a routine flight from Sydney to Los Angeles, but embittered chemical engineer Philip (Mark Lee) has smuggled aboard a music box filled with explosives in hopes of punishing his ex-wife Claire (Helen Thomson) and her new husband. Philip, who sneaked off the plane after planting the bomb, has no compunction about blowing everyone else aboard to kingdom come. Prescott gets a mid route call from the control tower, advising him that Philip has phoned in a bomb threat. Ordered without explanation to move away from the bomb's vicinity, passengers naturally start to panic. While the police scour Sydney in search of Philip or a diagram of his bomb, Prescott agrees to dismantle the device under the telephone guidance of demolition expert Danny Gorlin (Ernie Hudson). Just as the crisis appears to be under control, the police call in with more bad news: Philip has stolen vials of nerve gas from his employer. Even if Prescott clips the right wires, he can't stop Philip's backup plan. Time is running out; the fuel gage is near empty and when the Sydney police finally corner Philip, he refuses to cooperate. Prescott is on his own: he must figure out a way to safely land his jet without killing everyone on board with a cloud of bacterial gas. Authoritatively acted by Lee and Thomson, the sage of the stalking ex-husband and his terrified wife adds a layer of pathos to a tried-and-true catastrophe scenario. Although the crew behaves with cardboard nobility, director Armand Mastroianni has a sure way with suspense sequences and the various mid-air crises are genuinely effective.
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