Flight Plan Review

by [email protected] (dnb AT dca DOT net)
September 26th, 2005

A film review by David N. Butterworth
Copyright 2005 David N. Butterworth

**1/2 (out of ****)

    So who, would you say, is the toughest action figure in the movies nowadays?

    Ah-nuld "I'll be back" Schwarzenegger? Well, what's he done lately (other than govern California)? OK, what about Tom Cruise? Nah- -he could barely tough out his marriage to Nicole. Maybe "The Punisher"'s Tom Jane then? Er, isn't Jane a girl's name?

    Nope. All of these guesses are wrong. The correct answer is... Jodie Foster!

    After 2002's "Panic Room," in which her character strove to keep herself and her daughter safe from a trio of burglars who had infiltrated their New York brownstone, Ms. Foster returns with another impassioned, charismatic performance as Kyle Pratt, a recently widowed mother who strives to locate her missing six-year-old aboard a transatlantic flight from Berlin to New York.

    Ms. Pratt tackles a multitude of obstacles in "Flightplan"--the recent death of her husband (did he fall from a rooftop or was he pushed?), an emotionally fragile young daughter, innumerable flight delays and cancellations (not to mention that infamous yet now rapidly dwindling airline food). Plus obnoxious kids in the row ahead and a sarky air marshal seated behind, obstructionist flight attendants, insensitive co-passengers, and possibly even Mid-East coach class terrorists once it is revealed that her daughter is missing. (Jet- propulsion engineer Mom falls asleep and when she awakens three hours later Julia (Marlene Lawston) is nowhere to be found. Kyle immediately demands the crew search the plane from top to bottom but not one person aboard remembers seeing Julia embark, and the passenger manifold clearly indicates that the seat next to Kyle's was empty.)

    As the film progresses, Kyle's mental health is called into question. Was her daughter ever on the plane to begin with or is there, as she believes, some desperate conspiracy afoot?

    "Flightplan" is a well-made thriller that's kept airborne by Foster's resilient performance in the lead. She brings a mature toughness to the role that puts Mssrs. Schwarzenegger, Cruise, and Jane to shame. Sure her wide, impenetrable eyes overflow from time to time but she never once gives up, never cracks, believing 100% that her daughter has been kidnapped (or worse) and that she'll do everything in her power--and then some--to find her. Foster is *the* reason to see "Flightplan"; she lends the film both a consummate strength and vulnerability.

    Compared to the recent "Red Eye," however, Robert Schwentke's film isn't quite as effective (and certainly not the "Die Hard" at 37,000 feet it might have been). That's partly because there's (understandably) little if any humor sprinkled throughout the film, and audiences need that, especially when subjected to such an intense, claustrophobic experience as this. But it's also partly because of the film's unconvincing (as played) villain. "Die Hard" had an excellent bad guy in Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber. And "Red Eye"'s Cillian Murphy was the ultimate in-flight creep. "Flightplan" performs less well in this department... but that's all I'm willing to say on the matter.
    Nevertheless if you enjoy powerful performances I'd still recommend the film since we don't see nearly enough women ignoring the "fasten seatbelts" sign and pounding on the door of the flight deck demanding to see the captain these days.

David N. Butterworth
[email protected]

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