One of the key elements of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) that is often not in the limelight is the branch’s special force unit called Pasukan Khas Udara or PASKAU in short and they handle special warfare, search & rescue & security coverage missions. It is said that PASKAU received training from the UK’s famed Special Air Service (SAS) and the US Special Operations Forces (SOF). Image source: Wikipedia
Read these first:-
- Hindi Movie Review: URI Surgical Strike 2019, Intense and Surgical
- Military 101: Why Often Famous Military-Themed Movies Get Military Tactics Wrong?
- Indian Cinema 101: Blatant Mockery of Military Tactics in Wild Dog 2021
- Military 101: Revisiting RMN’s Brilliant 15 to 5 Transformation Program
- Military 101: Malaysian’s Sukhoi-30MKM – Agile, Beautiful & Needs Upgrades
Who governs the area between the North and the South? It cannot be an exclusive zone from the beginning and if it is, why the humanitarian teams don’t operate from here or do they? Somehow this information is not clear from the movie, Image Source: Screenshot from the movie
Despite the title that says “Air Force”, the story is not about pilots and their jet fighters like in the Hollywood blockbuster movie, Top Gun. They should have called it “PASKAU” instead because the bulk of the storyline is about PASKAU.
The movie follows the story of a PASKAU team led by Captain Adib and his mentor, Major Adnan, tasked with protecting humanitarians from Malaysia serving in the war-torn (fictional) country, Namburi.
When it seems like the safe havens in the country are going to be overrun by the rebels, it was decided that the humanitarians be brought back home together with others namely TV reporters & the PASKAU team. However, Captain Adib at the last minute makes a crucial mistake of trying to save one of the opposite rebel combatants who dies in the end, earning the anger of the rebel leader that has to surround the air base.
On their return home, their French-made A400M transport plane gets shot down by local militants as a sign of revenge.
Nine of the passengers which include the doctor, TV reporters, and the PASKAU team managed to make their jump before the plane crashed but the A400M pilot & the co-pilot gets killed in the attack. They all managed to land safely but it takes some effort for the PASKAU team to get their weapons & gears back as it was kept safely as part of the cargo.
Back in Malaysia, upon discovery of the news, the RMAF high command makes preparation for a search & rescue mission. Captain Adib’s brother-in-law, Zafran, a grounded Sukhoi Su-30MKM pilot requests to be involved in the mission to provide air support whilst RMAF deploys several groups of rescue teams to fly in via helicopters.
There are several fighting takes place where unfortunately a number of the survivors dies from the rebel attacks including PASKAU team leader, Captain Adib. The remaining survivors get rescued in the end.
Despite the promising premise and the huge backing from the RMAF who provided the assets & personnel, the execution of the storyline in Air Force: The Movie, unfortunately, fell short in actual fact. But before that, let’s look at some of the things that the Air Force: The Movie moviemakers got right.
In the movie, you will see the shot of the Sukhoi Su-30MKM with its impressive air brakes deployed will make any Russian fighter jet buff drip saliva and in this movie, all the shots involving the Sukhoi Su-30MKM are brilliantly done and use actual fighter jets from the RMAF inventory, Image Source: Wikipedia
As one ex-US pilot remarked after watching the Air Force: The Movie trailer, this movie has the advantage of RMAF being directly involved by using actual planes and personals in the movie. Whilst there may be some CGIs involved especially with the firing of the missiles & the downing of the A400M transport plane, the rest is the actual deal with RMAF’s own beautiful Sukhoi Su-30MKM.
And there are several shots in Air Force: The Movie that is really iconic that exceed what even the best in Hollywood can do and this indeed speaks much about the cinematography for this movie. It is certainly an upscale quality of work that is being done in the Malaysian film industry although, in some scenes, the camera work is rather shaky and unacceptable.
Didn’t the Air Force: The Movie makers learn anything from the movie, Saving Private Ryan where Captain Miller clearly explained why a combat unit cannot bring along children during their missions? Here despite their options to escape diminishing every time, one of the PASKAU team members wants to take a child with them. Image Source: Screenshot from the movie
Having the best scenes aside, we come to the problems with Air Force: The Movie.
Firstly the premise of the conflict – Nimburi – the map shows the conflict between the North and South but what about the middle which seems to be free from any conflict? Why do the humanitarian team & PASKAU operate from there since they suppose to be independent of both sides?
Then we have the huge blunders that seem to be made by PASKAU in the movie but will not be made in real life by the actual PASKAU team who have been tasked to protect the Malaysian humanitarian team.
Any military or peace-keeping force that is sent to an overseas conflict arena will not get themselves involved with the local conflict. Here in Air Force: The Movie, the PASKAU team leader gets himself involved personally with the local conflict by trying to rescue one young rebel despite arriving dead & does not change anything positively on the ground.
This in the end only creates more mess for the team and put them in greater danger. It did happen in the end when the rebels shoot down the RMAF’s A400M transport plane out of revenge & anger.
Then we have the scene where PASKAU decides to lock away their most important items namely weapons into a container as if they are flying commercially before they have cleared & safely passed through the conflict zone. In the end, they do not have any weapons or pieces of equipment when they were forced to land in a highly critical war zone and with the rebels breathing down on them. No real soldier will be on an active mission without his or her’s weapons.
In Air Force: The Movie, it seems like the idea of being stealthy or keeping low is not in their PASKAU’s tactical books. I was shocked to see them trying to drive through a crowd of refugees immediately attracts the attention of other refugees wanting to escape the fights and more importantly rebels who are searching for them. A real special element would have avoided the crowd altogether, keeping very, very low, and then slammed the accelerator of their vehicles to reach the extraction point as soon as possible and set defense perimeters.
Sorry to say but some of the scenes in Air Force: The Movie does not make any sense and you don’t have to be a special force operative to know that the act is not the right thing to do in a war-torn country.
Every shot of the Sukhoi Su-30MKM from Air Force: The Movie is worth to be reprinted in high definition and in 4K namely the shot where RMAF’s Sukhoi Su-30MKM climbs up shooting flares to avoid a missile fired from the rebel’s MiG-29 fighter jet. Image Source: Screenshot from the movie
There are elements of the storyline in Air Force: The Movie that is directly copied from movies like Tears of the Sun where there a team of US Navy Seal led by Lt Waters (played by Bruce Willis) goes on a mission to rescue a US doctor from a war-torn country and of course, Top Gun for dogfight scenes except that it is beautiful Sukhoi Su-30MKM instead of the impressive F-14 Tomcat.
Generally Air Force: The Movie is an acceptable movie although it is failed to meet expectations from a military buff like me who has seen movies like URI: The Surgical Strike, PASKAL: The Movie, and many good special forces movies and knows that good tactical special movies can be made focussing nothing but the mission at hand.
In Air Force: The Movie, too many things happening and seriously there is no focus on the mission – do you follow the PASKAU’s mission on the ground or the Sukhoi pilot’s mission on the air? The Air Force: The Movie movie makers should have focussed on one.
And moving forward, the screwups on tactics in a movie that is based on the military and where the military is directly involved must stop. Why disregard sound tactics that real special forces will deploy in the same situation? To continue to disregard this is to disrespect the professionalism and training of the special forces team.