JUST in time for Merdeka, Air Force The Movie: Selagi Bernyawa hits cinema screens, bringing big action and big drama with a strong patriotic feeling as it celebrates the men and women who serve on the frontlines of our nation’s defence. But while the simple story provides thrills, it just needed a little more personal drama to really elevate the characters.
The story starts in the middle of the action, as the fictional Pacific island nation of Namburi is tearing itself apart in a bloody civil war. A Malaysian humanitarian mission is packing up, boarding the last military transport plane out of there.
Alongside a doctor and a couple of journalists are an elite Paskau team (Air Force special ops), led by Major Adnan (played by Mat Kilau himself, Datuk Adi Putra). Unfortunately, their plane is downed by surface-to-air missiles, and the survivors need to survive as the RMAF puts together a rescue mission.
Some added drama comes via flashback, as we’re introduced to the lifelong friendship between Adib (Nas-T) and Zafran (Aiman Hakim Ridza) who both join the RMAF, though they have a falling out when Adib chooses to join Paskau instead of being a fighter pilot.
The central conflict here isn’t really strong enough – it seems like such a small disagreement to end a long relationship – it’s very transparently done to up the drama. It functions to set them apart, as Adib and his team are behind enemy lines, and Zafran and co have to fly in and save the day.
Coming out just a few months after Top Gun: Maverick, arguably the definitive movie about fighter jocks, Air Force aims to do similar things but with a Malaysian twist.
The Paskau element, where the special ops trek through hostile territory, is reminiscent of movies like Tears of the Sun (2003) or Behind Enemy Lines (2001).
Like Top Gun, every military character in Air Force has a cool callsign with Paskau team members Major Adnan going by Lejen, while Adib goes by Rock, other standouts are Hujan (Jack Tan), Gaban (Luqman Hafidz), Paco (Johan As’ari), and Tuai (Pablo Amirul).
Other characters include Natrah (Sara Ali) and Matno (Anas Ridzuan), a reporter and cameraman, Susan (Iman Corrine), a WHO doctor, who are being escorted by the Paskau unit.
Back home, there’s Hana (Azira Syafinaz), Adib’s wife and Zafran’s sister, and Marya (Carmen Soo), a fighter jet technician.
The issue with such a large cast is that many of them don’t have a chance to make a mark, with some popping up for a couple of scenes with a handful of lines of unmemorable dialogue.
Despite all the good-looking people in front of the camera, the real stars of Air Force are all the lavishly shot military hardware, specifically the Su-30MKM that our hero Zafran (callsign Mantis) flies.
It’s a beautiful-looking bird and the photography captures that. However, when it’s time for action, the green screen is very evident and the editing gets choppy.
The action scenes in general are very well done – with the exception of an overly dark hallway fight that was way too shaky and choppily edited – filled with a sense of desperation as the Paskau team fights against tough odds. It’s not over the top, as the elite unit operates with precision.
The professionalism of the armed forces is being clearly displayed, especially later on when the rescue mission is underway. It’s really something seeing all the different planes and units operating as one.
The story itself is very predictable, which is not necessarily a bad thing – don’t reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to.
A bigger problem is the lack of drama between the characters. Air Force mostly avoids the typical Malaysian melodrama, but it’s almost too straightforward. Plotlines that one would assume would bring some conflict or tension are just skipped over or wrapped up too easily. Maybe it was a choice to focus on the plot, but it leaves the characters less than fully rounded.
Ultimately, Air Force The Movie: Selagi Bernyawa makes its point during the end credits as the names and descriptions of recent RMAF operations, along with pictures and video, played on the screen. This movie is a patriotic celebration of heroism, a showcase of how our military can make a difference. It succeeds in that regard.
Editor’s Note: Haikal Fernandez’s article was published in The Vibes, on August 25, 2022.
#RobrenReview: 8 | 10
Published on: Merdeka/ Independence Day, Malaysia 31 August 2022
Link to this article: https://tinyurl.com/AirForce4