12 Days of Christmas: Turbulence

It might not officially be The 12 Days of Christmas, but FILM IN WORDS will still fill your festive viewing schedule with cheer. From beloved movies that have become an irreplaceable holiday tradition to cult and lesser known Xmas cuts that promise to subvert and haunt your holidays, there’s something for everyone all the way up to Christmas Eve.

Turbulence Large

Words: Brody Rossiter
Twitter: @BrodyRossiter


There’s an undeniable charm to 1990s action movies, an aesthetic that you can’t quite put your finger on yet somehow still appears undeniably distinct. Perhaps it’s the fashion of the era, the hairstyles, or maybe the soft glow of the 21st century in the distance. Modernity’s trappings are clearly present in various forms, whether it is the first generation of electronic technologies malfunctioning in the background or the means by which we travel across the globe speeding across the screen. Nevertheless, everything still feels rudimentary. There’s still a sense of innocence amongst the general populous, a tendency for delusional optimism that leaves the doors unlocked and allows terrorists and murderers to hijack buildings and planes.

1997 action-thriller, Turbulence, stars Ray Liotta as convicted serial killer, Ryan Weaver. After finally being captured Christmas shopping for his next victim, Weaver must board a plane to Los Angeles alongside a group of U.S. Marshalls and fellow murderers. Film history has taught us that the combination of dangerous criminals and air travel are ultimately a recipe for disaster, and Turbulence’s Christmas Eve flight does nothing to buck the trend.

Following a vicious escape attempt by one of the captured convicts, the journey spirals out of control. The film’s initial action orientated narrative is quickly reduced to a tense psychological struggle between Liotta’s maniacal yet highly-intelligent Weaver and heroic stewardess Teri. The two engage in a sinister battle of wits while the airplane hurtles nose first into a ferocious storm, air-traffic control and the FBI guiding Teri on how to save the lives of her passengers and elude Weaver’s fondness for raping and strangling young women.

Creepy riffs on classic Christmas scoring punctuate Turbulence’s increasingly disturbed narrative, while multi-coloured fairy lights blinker throughout the bloodstained cabin. Initially dismissed as a Die Hard rip-off (beyond the font used on the poster the two pictures barely resemble one another) Turbulence is far more indebted to classic slasher pictures and even Hitchcock’s cinematic mind games.

­­A surprisingly unique take on a tired action trope that also possesses a wealth of trashy fun and a entertainingly insane performance from Liotta, Turbulence will likely never top a favourite Christmas films list, nevertheless it does provide an escape from heart-warming Christmas cheer, replacing it with some quintessentially 90s mid-air madness.

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