Sign up for our weekly newsletter
Motorpoint Arena

Film Review: Operation Christmas Drop

11 November 20 words: Joanna Hoyes

Is it too early to start watching Christmas movies? Netflix reckons not. Here's what Joanna Hoyes thinks of this one...

Director: Martin Wood
Starring: Kat Graham, Alexander Ludwig, Virginia Madsen
Running time: 95 minutes

A whole slew of new Netflix-original Christmas movies are due to drop - pun intended - within the next couple of months in time for this year’s very stay-at-home season, and among them is exotic beach-based outing Operation Christmas Drop.

Erica (Kat Graham) is an aid to a Congresswoman and she has her eye on a promotion when she is sent out to Guam on Christmas week to compile a report about a supposedly mis-managed military base. Andrew (Alexander Ludwig) is an Air Force Captain who doubles up as the base’s equivalent to Santa Claus (aka ‘CLAWS – Can’t Leave Anyone Without Santa’).

The ambitious, Scrooge-like politico and the big-hearted, Christmas-loving soldier boy typically clash with their opposing views on how the base should be run, with Erica due to report back to D.C. that the base is a strong candidate for closure. That is, until, the conveniently strong-jawed Captain showcases one of the base’s main achievements: Operation Christmas Drop, an op which involves the delivery of vital aid, plus books, toys and gifts, for the surrounding remote islands who, without the help of the military, would get nothing for Christmas.

It’s not immediately obvious that this film is based on real events with only the end credits explaining that Operation Christmas Drop is an actual annual Air Force tradition. The drop began in 1952 and is the Department of Defence's longest-running humanitarian airlift operation. The operation now occurs on over fifty remote islands and also serves as a training exercise for the Air Force. It is run on an entirely voluntary basis with all of the aid being donated therefore “the taxpayers don’t pay a cent”.

It may be set in the tropical heat, but it’s a lukewarm watch with only fleeting moments of real emotion

Netflix has evidently put the Hollywood spin on this story and turned it into a holiday rom-com. In all fairness, you do find yourself caring a bit whether the leads get together in the end (spoiler: it’s Christmas, of course they do). Apart from a mild interest in their burgeoning feelings however, this movie could have fully explored the real-life military plot some more and given us a really interesting film. We may want the jollier, festive version at this time of year but the film doesn’t even feel all that Christmas-y given that it’s filmed in constant sunshine, apart from a typhoon which threatens to disrupt the heavily anticipated drop. (Don’t worry, it lasts five minutes and is quickly relegated to the status of ‘tropical storm’.)

The music feels all wrong, too. Colbie Caillat sings of Christmas in the Sand, Cee Lo Green gives us his incongruous rendition of White Christmas and at one point, Captain Andrew performs the classic tune Deck The Halls on a ukulele.   

There’s also a really strange CGI gecko which appears sporadically on Erica’s apartment wall with no real purpose or depth of character.

The only truly heart-warming moment is when you see the faces of the children on the islands when the military planes fly overhead to drop off their much-needed supplies. Not enough of a pay-off for a film lasting 95 minutes.

Operation Christmas Drop may be set in the tropical heat, but it’s a luke-warm watch with only fleeting moments of real emotion.

Did you know? A much-overlooked character called Brother Bruce plays a cameo of himself in the movie. He is the real-life main point of communication between Guam and the surrounding islands and has been involved with the drop for over 40 years.

Operation Christmas Drop is available on Netflix now

We have a favour to ask…

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion now