Stephen King might be one of the most successful American writers, but the screen adaptations of his work usually leave much to be desired. It is usually due to the density of his text, especially in terms of characterisation, which doesn't translate that well on feature films. So, mini-series or 3-hour TV-film usually tends to be more suitable way of screen adaptation than standard Hollywood feature film. It is even more suitable if King's text happens to be a shorter one. The Langoliers, directed by 1995 by Tom Holland, happens to be one such example, based on King's 250 page novella.
The plot of the film begins on a routine passenger flight between Los Angeles and Boston. The plane gets sucked into some sort of time-warp while most of the passengers slept. Only a handful of them wake up and find plane deserted by their fellow passengers and crew. Thankfully, one of the remaining passengers happens to be pilot, but he is about to face another problem - there isn't any radio-signal coming from the ground, lights are out and he would have to use all of his ingenuity in order to land the plane safely. Even greater peril comes from Langoliers - mysterious but deadly creatures that literally destroy everything in the passed time, including the unfortunate passengers who got subjected to time-warp.
The three hours of The Langoliers should pass relatively quickly, thanks to intriguing plot and good characterisation of the original novella. Tom Holland directs this TV adaptation with craftsman's confidence, while the diverse set of characters is played by reliable professionals (Bronson Pinchot is especially effective in the role of increasingly psychotic businessman). The real problems for The Langoliers appear in the second half of the film, when audience would have to encounter monsters from the title – and, to their great displeasure, find annoyingly bad CGI effects. The plot resolution is equally disappointing, so this TV-film should be recommended only to biggest fans of Stephen King.
RATING: 4/10 (+)
(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.films.reviews on September 23rd 2003)
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Movie URL: https://www.themoviedb.org/tv/18197-the-langoliers