Title: A Dark Reflection
Director: Tristan Loraine
Major Players: Georgina Sutcliffe, Stephen Tompkinson
Out Of Five: 2.5
Usually I wouldn’t think twice about criticising a film – it’s what I do, after all. But this is one of those instances where I feel obliged to handle the subject with a little more care. It’s not because it’s a film with a cause – we’ll come on to that later – but because it’s a very personal project for its director. The subject has affected his life in a serious way.
We’re talking air contamination in commercial aircraft and the director is Tristan Loraine, who lost his medical certificate to fly back in 2006 because of repeated exposure to contaminated air. He re-trained as a film maker, already has one documentary on the subject under his belt and is currently making another, due for release next year. So he’s on something of a crusade and, in A Dark Reflection, has created a huge co-operative project involving over 1,000 people. It doesn’t get more personal than this.
Essentially, we’re given a thriller about an investigative journalist who, after a tough and traumatic assignment overseas, takes a job with a local newspaper near Gatwick. Her boyfriend is an ATC, who’s been suspended because of a near miss, but it soon becomes apparent that it wasn’t down to pilot error. And she finds herself digging deeper into the subject of air contamination, which puts her in personal danger, breaks up her relationship and threatens the downfall of one particular airline CEO.
Off screen, it’s an on-going situation, which has made the national newspapers as recently as last weekend and has also been raised in The House Of Lords. It’s a film with a clear cause and a strong viewpoint. If you’re not keen on flying in the first place, then you’ll be even less keen if you see it. One thing’s for sure: it’ll never be an inflight movie.
That’s trivialising it. It takes its subject very seriously and has every right to: if the film is to be believed, it’s a serious health issue for passengers and crew alike. There’s just one problem. The film itself isn’t especially good. Its heart has overruled its head. Big time.
I’m not going to dissect it and pull it to pieces. After all, there aren’t many films that come from the heart to this extent. It’s just a shame it isn’t better.
As Loraine, who also co-wrote the script, was in the industry himself, he knows it backwards, but that means the film is laden with a lot of detail that puts the brakes on the narrative and minimises any possibility of tension. Even when it’s obvious the journalist is being tailed, there’s no real air of suspense – apart from the guilty hope that her car might blow up when she switches on the ignition and bring the film to an end.
A Dark Reflection comes across as a dramatized documentary/training film hybrid. And that rather tells you something about the acting as well. There’s a few familiar faces, most notably Stephen Tompkinson who makes an appearance on video, Corrie’s Bill Ward and Emmerdale’s Leah Bracknell. They do their best with the material they’re given, as does theatre’s Paul Anthony Barber as the newspaper editor (although he’s like just about any other newspaper editor we’ve seen in the movies), but it’s an uphill task. And they have to battle against an overpowering soundtrack.
Let’s go back to the idea of a documentary. Having seen this attempt at a dramatized version, I can’t help but think that next year’s Aerotoxic has a better chance of getting the message across. Much as the background to this film is heartfelt, I’m not convinced that a full length feature was the right format. But that takes nothing away from the subject itself or the commitment of the people behind it.
A Dark Reflection is currently on limited release around the UK.