Flightplan (2005)

According to the trailers, Flightplan looked like Panic Room in the sky… Panic Plane, if you will (to steal another reviewer’s muttered comment I overheard in the theater). And it could have been! It should have been. Instead, we get a run-of-the-mill thriller with plot holes, a cheesy script, and fine actors looking at each other uncomfortably, as though they are waiting for the director to add some spark to the proceedings.
Our Rating

Genre(s): Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Director: Robert Schwentke

Actors: Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Erika Christensen, Kate Beahan, Greta Scacchi, Sean Bean

Year: 2005

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Country: USA / Germany

Jodie Foster plays Kyle, a grieving woman who is flying to New York from Berlin to bring back the body of her dead husband. He “fell” from the roof of a building (or jumped? or was pushed? we are led to immediately wonder). Anyways, he’s dead, and we are told that the morticians did what they could, reconstructing what was left of him (of course he looks perfectly fine, which we see when they slam his coffin shut). Jodie, puffy eyed and looking older for the first time in her career, scoops up her young daughter and goes to the airport with mood-evoking snow swirling through the dark Berlin streets.

Now, we should have been sucked in so far. A truly stylish director, say, David Fincher (yes, of Panic Room) would have established the mood right away. But what we have is Jodie desperately trying to carry the movie alone with her red-rimmed eyes and trembling chin, and the audience already getting a little bored. Jodie finally gets on the plane, she tucks her daughter in, and they both sprawl out asleep along with all other passengers.

But when Jodie wakes up… HER KID IS GONE! (Cue dramatic music!!!!)

Now, this is a monster-sized jet airliner. Brand new. Two full levels. Over 500 passengers. Fancy bar area. This movie-plane is one of those types that they keep showing on the TV news as the wave of the future. Turns out that Jodie is one of the design engineers for the very plane that her daughter has vaporized on, so she knows… KNOWS that the kid could be in any number of nooks and crannies. But does the kid even exist? No one has seen her. No one remembers the kid even getting on the plane. Everyone starts to this tiny frantic woman is off her rocker.

Several people are introduced as potential shifty characters as Jodie runs full speed up and down the aisles, screaming out for someone to find her daughter (at one point, a passenger throws her to the ground, knocking her unconscious, and I have to admit, I was relieved). There is the handsome captain with the soothing captain-voice (Sean Bean, whose nose is distractingly discolored for one long scene); there is the Air Marshall (Peter Sarsgaard), who spends his time chasing after crazy Jodie; there are a couple passengers who happen to be Arab, therefore are instant targets of suspicion; then there’s the rest of the flight crew, consisting of glassy-eyed, pretty men and women who smile super-fake “we hate you” smiles at Jodie whenever she screams at them. But then, the movie tries to tell us, Jodie MAY be crazy. Maybe her daughter IS dead (as the crew tells her). Maybe she was never on the plane!

The claustrophobic atmosphere of too many people in an enclosed space sounds ripe for a tense thriller to me, especially because a mere two weeks ago, I was on one of these 10-hour transatlantic flights. No one is happy to be there, and I can imagine it would be much worse with a lunatic or two trapped in there with you. But Flightplan doesn’t score with what should be an easy target. Things only pick up when Jodie strips off her sweater to reveal a sensible tight T-shirt (showing it’s time to get down to business!), but it is too little too late.

Flightplan tries to balance Not Without My Daughter with Air Force One and Panic Room, and wrap it up in Lifetime Channel emotion. It is a shame that such a great cast is wasted (Foster, Sargaard, Bean, and even short appearances by Erika Christensen and Greta Scacchi). This should have been a great thriller—but with its complete lack of flair, this Flightplan is grounded from the start.


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