Directed by: Martin Wood
Written by: Gregg Rossen, Brian Sawyer
Starring: Kat Graham, Alexander Ludwig, Virginia Madsen
Netflix Film Review by: Chris Olson
Operation Christmas Drop Film Review
Kat Graham and Alexander Ludwig star in the Netflix festive movie Operation Christmas Drop. The former plays a political ladder-climber looking to undermine a military air base for career gain, the latter is a Captain who needs to throw her off the scent of his yuletide do-goodery which brings vital resources to isolated islanders but are not deemed militarily essential by the suits back home. Based on a true story, director Martin Wood eschews the winter winds for a sunnier climate and yet this Christmas film feels like a generic stocking filler all the same.
Known for his strong performances in Vikings and The Hunger Games, Ludwig seems a strange choice for the role of a cocky people-person and yet that is the hat he dons in Operation Christmas Drop. It’s an uneven performance that often descends into awkward cliche and (despite the weather) cold scenes with Graham, who is likeable but feels unchallenged by the script which signposts the viewer like Santa’s Sat-Nav. The movie fails to get the sledge off the ground, however, because Ludwig and Graham simply have less chemistry than Trump and Melania. Their scenes together are bulging with awkwardness as if they hadn’t spent a moment together until the cameras started rolling and neither one of them has any interest in convincing us that they share a burgeoning passion/hatred. It’s tepid water and carrots rather than milk and cookies.
Where Operation Christmas Drop does make a splash is in its sumptuous humanity. Christmas films are so often obscured by frenetic aesthetic trappings or plot points which align them with completely juxtaposing genres, whereas this story - from writers Gregg Rossen and Brian Sawyer - does pack a whole load of humanitarian in with an equal measure of humbug. Dropping off donations to people cut off from the world seems like an entirely obvious win for the US Air Force but Washington has its own ideas about what’s important. Virginia Madsen steps into well-worn shoes as a Congresswoman in this film and much like her similar portrayal in the TV show Designated Survivor, she spends her time navigating the relentless needs of the American people with her own soul - if only in the limited screen time given to her here.
The set-pieces are underwhelming, the forced chemistry between the two leads is deflating, and the lack of snow and Christmas trimmings will challenge any festive film fan to hang this on their list of best Christmas movies.