Drama/Disaster. Basic plot: The crew of an air liner face death when they try to transport people out of a region hit by an earthquake.
4:3 fullscreen, good image quality (I'd rate it 7/10), very good 5.1 audio quality.
This movie spends a lot of time on character development; in fact, the first hour is pretty much nothing but character interaction. Usually that's a good thing, and in this case it is but only to a certain extent. Some of the development here could have easily been discarded to make for a leaner, less cluttered narrative. The narrative itself has no scale of time - scenes might be minutes apart or months apart, and most of the time you can't tell which. Once we've learned a lot about the characters (pilot, co-pilot, and so on) and their lives, they are all brought together for one particular flight. This is a flight into an area hard hit by an earthquake and still suffering from heavy aftershocks. At this point the movie abruptly goes into disaster mode. Earthquake, volcano (there is a reference to "lava" but it looks more like floodwaters to me), exploding power plants, you get the idea. The effects are similar to the better ones seen in Japanese Godzilla films (i.e. decent but obvious miniature work, some of the shots better than others). There is some tension that builds up thanks to a few unusual and bold decisions made by the characters. Will they make it out of there and back home alive?
There are some decent performances, but some of the characters and their actions are terribly frustrating, enough to make you want to talk back at the screen. It is necessary to keep the film's context in mind - made around 1980 (no CGI here), in Russia where films had to be approved by the state, probably without the latest and greatest cinematic innovations and technology at their disposal. But this is pure disaster melodrama ("cheese" if you like), with very few of the artful, meaningful aspirations of the brilliant Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky for example. Ultimately "Air Crew" is worth at least a look, but especially for Russian cinema fans. Runs 119 minutes (not 144).