Into the Night

Dept. of Nocturnal Excursions


“Sunlight means death”

It’s  simple concept that forms the background for Netflix’s latest must-see thriller/drama Into the Night, one that far exceeds its seemingly B-movie set up.

After a man in military uniform commandeers the partially boarded BE Flight 21 to Moscow from Brussels, he has only one demand: “fly west!”. The small number of passengers and crew on board think he’s a crazy terrorist, but as the first episode progresses it becomes clear that he might be on to something.

Over the next six, tension filled episodes, the passengers and crew of BE Flight 21 will find out more about what’s going on, and each other, as they run into one issue after another. Mechanical failures, divisions amongst the ranks of survivors, sudden violence – new problems appear with expert timing just as things are settling down. It’s a real roller coaster of emotion and fantastically handled by the showrunners, with moments of calm, and character reveals in between the high stakes drama. You never get totally accustomed to it or overwhelmed.

Go West!

You’ll see this A LOT and will learn to crave the release it brings.

It helps that almost every aspect of the show demonstrates the same commitment to quality. It constantly finds new ways to shoot inside the aircraft, and even the title cards are amazing, with some of the best timed title card drops on television. It’s only after the sparse title card pops up and the minimal theme has kicked in, that you realise that the drum beats have been slowly infiltrating your perception and you’ve been gripping your armrests with stress.

It’s all worth it, however, when the release comes. I almost punched the air in exultation at the end of the first episode when the the music, visuals, and acting all came together as someone said the name of the show in response to the question of where they should go next!

While I initially scoffed at the concept of a planeful of  people trying to outrun killer sunlight (it reminded me a little too much of Stephen King’s The Langoliers), the show treats it with a respectful realism. It is yet another way it builds that almost unbearable, enjoyable tension. They’re not dealing with a situation where the sun is scorching the earth clean. There is some hope, but it never lasts for very long, as the show throws problem after problem at them.

A European Disunion

The other strength of the show is it’s cast. Unlike many U.K./U.S. focused disaster movies, Into the Night features a European Union worth of nationalities, although the only thing uniting many of them is their instant dislike for each other. The Italian and Turkish characters come to blows almost immediately.

As with most great disaster stories like The Poseidon Adventure or The Towering Inferno, they also come from all sorts backgrounds – from an influencer, to a well dressed man with a shady background, to an airport cleaner who was just on board to help fix a seat. It’s a nice cross section of society that doesn’t quite boil down to the rich/poor dichotomy of most disaster flicks.

Another distinguishing touch is most of those on board speak French or Flemish, while dropping into their native Dutch, Turkish, Arabic, or Italian for more personal declarations. It’s actually jarring once a trio of English speakers turn up .

Cabin Crew, Please Take Your Seats For Take-Off

The plane not being full of passengers at take-off gives the audience a manageable number of people to get to know. As the season progresses,  flashbacks fill in some of the back story, but these scenes never linger too long. It’s a bit like Lost, if they never crashed the plane, and ditched all of that “Island” nonsense.

I’m being vague about the individual characters because you never know who’s going to make it. Just know that the performances are excellent across the board.

Similar to Netflix’s other big international hit Money Heist, as Bahir pointed out in his review, violence is always threatening to break out, even in the tight confines of an air-plane cabin. Violence almost always results in tragic, immediate consequences. Even a stray punch can leave lasting, horrifying, consequences when you simply cannot get medical attention. Its a reality the show never shies away from.

The never-ending march of the dawn terminator brings its own violence as the slightest delay can mean missing your flight, and hence death, a fate that the show deals out quite early. Anyone can be left behind.

“Doors to Arrival and Crosscheck”

The big question for a series like this has to be “Does it stick the landing”. It’s a question that the showrunners seem to raise themselves through the pilot Mathieu, as, after a particularly stressful couple of hours he states they “can’t fly like this forever”.

Thankfully this first season ends with an intriguing change to the status quo and another one of those perfectly timed title cards, leaving a runway of possibilities for subsequent seasons. I would stay away from the Wikipedia entry for the book the series is supposedly based upon, The Old Axolotl by Jacek Dukaj. I don’t know if the makers of the show just took the concept from that book, but it may hold spoilers for future seasons.

With a level of on screen tension to rival the first 20 minutes of the BBC’s Bodyguard (also available on Netflix), only spread out across 6 episodes, Into the Night might not be for the faint of heart but is definitely one of the best shows of 2020.

Into the Night
Netflix, Season 1, 6 episodes
Showrunner: Jason George
Writer: Jason George. Based upon the book “The Old Axolotl” by Jacek Dukaj.
Cast: Laurent Capelluto, Pauline Etienne, Stefano Cassetti, Mehmet Kurtulus, Babetida Sadjo, Jan Bijvoet, Ksawery Szlenkier, Vincent Londez, Regina Bikkinina,  Alba Gaïa Bellugi, Nabil Mallat, and Astrid Whettnall

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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