Ten passengers on a plane awake from a nap to find that everyone else—including the pilot—has disappeared. Fortunately the captain apparently put the plane on autopilot before vanishing, and Brian the off-duty pilot (David Morse) is onboard. Besides Brian, there’s British spy Nick (Mark Lindsay Chapman), schoolteacher Laurel (Patricia Wettig), blind psychic kid Dinah (Kate Maberly), teenagers Albert (Christopher Collet) and Bethany (Kimber Riddle), mystery writer Bob (Dean Stockwell), average guys Rudy (Baxter Harris) and Don (Frankie Faison), and dangerous psychopath Craig (Bronson Pinchot). Turns out they flew into a rip in the time/space continuum, leaving them slightly in the past. That’s fixable, but they also have to contend with Craig’s shenanigans, like stabbing people. They’re also menaced by the Langoliers, which are basically flying meatballs with teeth. Their mission is thus to gas up the plane and get away before the monsters get them.
I first saw this movie when it was new, in 1995. I was twelve, and idolized Stephen King. (I still felt a wave of affection for him on my most recent viewing during his cameo as Craig’s boss—how can you not love that nasal voice and adorable turtle face?) And every time I see it, I like it less. Not King’s best work to begin with, it’s even worse as a made-for-TV movie. Despite being in a good mood, I was annoyed with almost all of the characters: Brian for having an ugly mustache, Nick for being a James Bond rip-off, Laurel for being cutesy-poo, Dinah for being whiny and pessimistic, Rudy for having no character development aside from being perpetually hungry, Bob for being a King archetype (the jolly elderly guy who’s either a writer or English teacher), Albert for looking like the first blue Power Ranger, Bethany for alternating between cynical and hysterical, and Craig for being rude and insane. But I loves me some Frankie Faison, so Don is great, really the only likable character.
The acting is good, aside from Maberly, who at thirteen was the youngest cast member,
but it’s not all her fault—much of her dialogue sounds completely unnatural (tell me what American child says stuff like, “They’ve all gone!”). I’m also irked at how (as often happens in King’s works) the men figure out what’s happening, while the women dither and wait to be kissed. After four hours, I felt as if I too had slipped into the time/space continuum, waiting for this mammoth to trundle to the particularly insufferable last fifteen minutes.
I recommend it to die-hard King fans (the kind who climb in his window pitching story ideas) and no one else.