After a series of bombs are detonated in London, the focus shifts to the fictitious country of ‘Scandinavia’ (actually Norway), where a group of very posh terrorists have kidnapped the equally posh British ambassador to that country. The masked terrorist’s demands are then passed on to the local security forces. Nils Tahlvik, (played by Sean Connery) is the pragmatic military police chief assigned to negotiate with the terrorists.
Things become complicated still further when a gang of hijackers, led by Ray Petrie (Ian McShane), seize a British plane as it is about to land in Scandinavia. The captain of the plane takes a chance by making the tires of the plane blow up as they land, which helps to buy the authorities some additional time. Hence Sean, err, I mean Nils, must also try to rescue the hostages on the plane. And, if that wasn’t already enough, there is also an internal conflict with a British agent/politician who wants to give in to the kidnappers' demands, something that Tahlvik doesn't want to do.
However, all attempts to surprise the kidnappers on board fail and, as preparations begin to bring the ambassador, and the men holding him, onto the aircraft, an attempt by the police to send security forces - masquerading as the criminals - onto the plane also fails. This leaves Tahlvik himself to think that ‘if you want anything doing right around here you have to do it yourself’, which ends with him boarding the aircraft and settling the bad guys' hash almost single handedly. No surprise there then!
The screenplay, by Paul Wheeler, is confusing, at best. We don't really have a clear picture of what is actually going on for much of the film, and that is complicated further by the ending in which a surprise comes out of nowhere regarding one of the hijackers and the duplicity of someone in the negotiating team; although the latter issue is not really all that surprising when you think about it. Well, I wasn’t surprised!
Sean Connery is one of the best things about this film. It’s only on watching average films like this that you realise how much of a star Connery was and how much charisma the man must have had in his heyday. Whenever he’s not on screen the film really takes a nose dive in quality and interest. However, Sean is more of a ‘star’ than accomplished actor and, as per usual, retains his own accent, rather than that of a Scandinavian, which is quite amusing. Let’s face it Connery can only really play Connery, but that’s fine with me…
Ian McShane makes an interesting appearance as nasty hijacker Ray Petrie, who is in charge of the hijacking team on board the plane. And Isabel Dean has a couple of good dramatic scenes as the British ambassador's wife pleading with Tahlvik to comply with the terrorist’s and hijacker’s demands. It doesn’t work!
While the film is by no means awful, it could have been probably made significantly better with a script polish and by using a director better suited to the thriller/action genre. However, Swede Sven Nykvist’s cinematography looks stunning at times, which is given full justice here in this brand-new high definition transfer from the original film elements, courtesy of Network Distribution. An additional, but pointless, subplot involving a light aircraft chase through the mountains is nicely filmed, although it lacks any real dramatic tension. Additionally Jerry Goldsmith’s slightly menacing score works well to hold everything together.
Overall this is an intelligent, fairly atmospheric thriller that looks stunning due to its recent upgrade. I just wish the filmmakers had tightened up the script a little and director Wrede had had the ability to crank up the much needed tension since most of the time it’s just left to deflate, a bit like the aircraft’s tyres on the film’s fictitious runway.
Ransom has recently been released on DVD and Blu-Ray and is being distributed by Network Distributing who are, to their credit, currently releasing lots of these rarer British film titles.
The extras on the disc include okay two trailers, which help demonstrate what a good job Network have done to clean up the picture quality of the actual film, and an image gallery.