12 Days of Netflix: Operation Christmas Drop
Ivan Radford | On 13, Dec 2020
Director: Martin Wood
Cast: Kat Graham, Alexander Ludwig, Trezzo Mahoro
Watch Operation Christmas Drop online in the UK: Netflix UK
“This is what Christmas is supposed to feel like,” someone says partway through Operation Christmas Drop, as the US Air Force airlifts gifts and essential supplies to struggling communities in Micronesia. That this says more about the film’s presentation of the American military than Christmas tells you all you need to know about the Netflix romantic comedy.
The film has its roots in a genuine military tradition, which sees the Air Force distribute supplies across Micronesia from a base in Guam. It’s a humanitarian scheme that’s a heartwarming display of compassion and kindness. Whether that’s enough to absolve the US military of everything else it does is another matter entirely, and it’s one that, perhaps understandably, this rom-com isn’t interested in exploring: here, the troops are heroes and anything that gets in their way of doing the right thing is a villain.
Enter Virginia Madsen as congresswoman Angie, who is spearheading an efficiency drive to shut down the US Air Force bases that aren’t cost effective. The Andersen Base in Guam is top of her list and so she dispatches her aide, Erica (Kat Graham), to examine the base’s finances. She’s met by Andrew (Alexander Ludwig), a pilot and captain who spends most of his time trying to distract her from scrutinising the books.
If that scenario doesn’t scream “odd couple destined to fall in love”, you’re not alone – even next to A Christmas Prince and The Princess Switch (in which Vanessa Hudgens plays a duchess and a Chicago baker who switch places), this is one of the most contrived set-ups for a Netflix Christmas movie. The cast do their best to sell it, with Kat Graham – of The Vampire Diaries and Netflix’s How It Ends – bringing a likeable heart to the part of her career-driven assistant and Alexander Ludwig – of Vikings – getting a deserved chance to showcase his natural charisma away from rough and ready battle cries.
But the script, from Gregg Rossen and Brian Sawyer, is content to fly through the conventional story beats without trying anything surprising or remotely romantic. With no doubt at any point that charity – no matter the context – is something to celebrate, the stakes are minimal (a typhoon disappears as quickly as it appears), and with no depth or complications to the characters (Andrew’s flaw is genuinely that he cares too much), there’s little reason to care beyond the pretty scenery. While other festive flicks might fall back on humour to keep things jingling along, Operation Christmas Drop is sorely lacking in that department too. The result is a disappointingly un-festive affair that feels more like a recruitment advert for the US Air Force than what Christmas is supposed to feel like.
Operation Christmas Drop is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.