I’ve recently had the immense pleasure of watching “The Taking of Flight 847: the Uli Derickson Story” which is currently available gratis on Comcast on Demand.
Ah yes, it’s a glamorous life I lead.
This is a TV movie based on real life, German Flight Attendant Uli, who was on a hijacked TWA plane in 1985 and basically saved everyone’s ass due to her calming, womanly ways.
I actually remember this hijacking, which occurred when I was 7. A frequent TWA passenger and unable to sleep, I slowly walked in my parents’ living room to find my father sitting by the fire, smoking a pipe and reading the newspaper. I assure you this visual is accurate, as my father fashions his life after Agatha Christie miniseries on Public Television. Anyway, I expressed concern and fret over this ongoing hijacking situation which, at age 7, no one had any problem exposing me to. And after seeing this movie again, I asked my dad if he remembered what he told young, scared, little Bethy by the fireside.
“Yep, I remember. Odds wise, you’re more likely to get hit by a meteor. That’s what you should really be worried about instead of hijacking.”
It explains so much.
This traumatic childhood experience came flooding back as I watched “The Taking of Flight 847” although this time, I was all over it. As a frequent viewer of terrorist drama, I found this 20 year old act of terrorism pretty tame. But the 80’s, ridiculous and unrealistic depiction of Flight 847 is right up my alley. We have the two terrorists, mouthing prayers, sweating and nervously rocking back and forth before the plane takes off, one of whom is in a sleeveless t-shirt with his long, Middle Eastern hair all messed up. As soon as the plane takes off, he screams “Algiers!” and runs up and down the aisle holding grenades and showing everyone his muscles. I won’t make any obvious “gun” references here. It’s too easy.
Then we have Uli, played brilliantly by Lindsey Wagner, who stays totally calm yet concerned, hides the Jewish passengers’ passports, translates between the terrorists and the pilots and even uses her own credit card to buy more fuel to get to Lebanon because TWA is too fucking cheap.
Oh, and Uli sings lullabies to everyone at the terrorists request.
She also has a heart to heart with the main terrorist, who’s slightly more put together than muscles/grenades guy. There appeared to be an undercurrent of sexual tension.
I enjoyed the passenger dialogue, especially the very serious and overacted following:
Male Passenger Number 1: “What do we do? What do we DO?!?”
Male Passenger Number 2: “I don’t know. (sigh) They have grenades.”
At one point, the hijackers make some lady dump the contents of her purse, and a tampon falls out. And Lindsey Wagner has total Migden hair. It was distracting, yet wonderfully hypnotic, European and era-appropriate.
Finally, the best part of this whole TV movie is the fact that it has commercial breaks built in, complete with the cliffhanging, nail biting fade to black that would make you sit through crappy 80’s ads.
Only there are no commercials!
It’s free. It’s got terrorists. Everyone lives.
You’ve got to watch it…