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By Patrick Samuel • April 9th, 2014
Static Mass Rating: 3/5
20th Century Fox

Original release: August 25th, 1989
Running time: 108 minutes

Director: Michael Anderson
Writer: John Varley

Cast: Kris Kristofferson, Cheryl Ladd


There’s always that moment during the initial takeoff when I sit there buckled into my seat and gripping the armrest while wondering if “this is it”. In my mind so many things can go wrong as I feel the plane rearing for the sky; what if the wind suddenly changes, or something gets caught in the engine? What would happen if lightning struck the aircraft or a pilot makes an error? As the plane continues its climb my pulse simultaneously quickens as scenario after scenario plays out in my overactive imagination; what if there’s a bomb on board, or we’re hijacked… with so many other planes in the air, what if we hit one?

It’s not until the seatbelt sign goes off that my breathing relaxes and I start to feel ok, enjoying some of the inflight entertainment, snacks, and of course the views. But for passengers, and the pilots, on board the Boeing 747 in this 1989 film, they don’t have that luxury. They’re struck from above by another airliner on a landing approach in the opening scene and the collision causes significant damage to the plane. Entering the passenger cabin, one of the pilots is shocked to see they’re all already dead and runs back to the cockpit screaming, “They’re dead! All of them! They’re burned up!” Shortly afterwards the plane crashes and explodes on the ground.

Starring Kris Kristofferson and Cheryl Ladd, Millennium is based on a 1977 short story Air Raid by John Varley, who also wrote the film’s screenplay. Following the crash, Bill Smith (Kristofferson) arrives on the scene. He’s a National Transportation Safety Board investigator hired to find out whether human error caused the two planes to collide and subsequently crash. Yet neither he nor his team can make sense of the pilot’s last words, “They’re dead! All of them! They’re burned up!” as there’s no indication of a fire on board the Boeing 747 before the crash.

Meanwhile, theoretical physicist Dr. Arnold Mayer (Daniel J. Travanti) begins to take an interest in the investigation and starts to ask Bill and his team some very odd questions about their findings so far. While giving a lecture, he talks about time travel and the possibility of visitors from the future. Bill also runs into Louise Baltimore (Ladd), with whom he becomes infatuated by, but it’s quite clear from the beginning she’s not at all what she seems, and she’s desperately trying to jeopardise the investigation.

Despite Dr. Mayer sounding like a kook, what if his theories are right? What if visitors from the future were affecting the current timeline, but how could they have been involved in the crashes of two airliners? Millennium Though the film’s pacing and set-up looks a bit outdated now, I do remember seeing Millennium back in the early 90s on television, and found the idea quite interesting, but it wasn’t until recently with the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 that I started to look again for stories where planes just vanished without a trace. Among them were Lost, The Langoliers and this film.

As we find out more about Louise and where she’s from, the film comes across as something like a mix between David Lynch’s Dune and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil with its steampunk overtones. Characters such as Sherman the Robot (Robert Joy) and the Council Chamber Members help to give the film its steampunk edge and that’s probably what I enjoyed most about Millennium, as well as Bill’s unfolding backstory which brings us back full circle. However it often drifts into made-for-television territory when it tries to focus on the love story between the two leads, neither of whom really held attention when they weren’t discussing time travel, the future and the crash.

Despite its clunky ending and oddly placed Winston Churchill quote “This is not the end. This is not the beginning of the end. It is the end of the beginning”, Millennium is a film deserving of a second watch, if only to see how writers and filmmakers have dealt with the idea of a mysterious plane disaster when even the NSA, with all their technological powers, can’t provide us with a simple answer as to where it went.


Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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