Review: FlightPlan

Jodie Foster is one of the best actresses of her generation. Since her breakout performance as Iris Steensma in Taxi Driver (1976), she has given us many memorable performances. These include The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Contact (1997) and Anna and the King (1999). She seems to excel in complex dramatic roles. Like Robin Williams she can make many a B movie come across as an A movie. Who else could be paired with Matthew McConaughey (Contact) and still pull off the movie? She wowed me as Ellie Arroway, so much so that Contact was the first movie I bought on DVD, in spite of McConaughey’s annoying performance. (My being a science fiction fan might have had something to do with it.)

She is back in theaters in the movie Flightplan. Here she plays Kyle, a bereaved mother. She is flying home from Germany aboard a fancy 747 with her six-year-old daughter. Her husband’s corpse is in the cargo hold. As you probably know from the trailers, she falls unexpectedly asleep and awakes to find that her daughter has mysteriously disappeared without a trace. No one on the flight can remember seeing her daughter. Naturally, she gets a little obsessive about her daughter’s disappearance. She succeeds in convincing the captain (Sean Bean) to search the plane. The flight marshal, an affable man named Carson (Peter Sarsgaard from Kinsey), shadows her.

There are the usual plot twists. Is she psychotic? Is the plane going to be hijacked? Are some swarthy Muslims on the flight that she thinks she saw the night before to blame for her daughter’s disappearance? Or was her daughter killed when her husband grabbed her and jumped off the building to his death?

Of course, all is revealed in time. As you would expect from such a fine actress, Jodie Foster gives a fine and wholly convincing performance. Moreover, there is not a bad performance in the movie. It is also excellently directed. Yet in some ways though it feels like we have seen this movie before. Remember Air Force One (1997)? As in Air Force One, there is plenty of running around the parts of the plane off limits to passengers and staying one step ahead of the bad guys. And yeah, it’s kind of neat to see those parts of the plane typically off limits to paying passengers. Like Air Force One, you will probably find your heart racing right up until the end. It is a well-paced movie. The brooding music by James Horner certainly adds to your anxiety throughout the movie. Moreover, since Jodie is playing a mother with a blonde, doe-eyed daughter, you cannot escape being drawn right into the story.

So what is the problem with the movie? The fatal flaw of the movie is its script, which has some gaping logical holes. I will detail these in the extended remarks. Nevertheless, it is likely that you will be enrapt watching the movie. It probably will not be until the movie is over that will you say “But what about…” and “How come…”

Therefore, the movie is not necessarily a waste of your money. It is likely much better than most of the other fall fare in the theaters. It will engross you from beginning to end. But because of the holes in the script and because both the producers and the directors did not take the time to fix them (which were eminently fixable) this film, like the plane, while it gets off the ground never really makes it into the stratosphere.

3 out of 4 stars. Spoilers in the extended remarks.

Here are five major problems I noticed with the movie.

First, why is it that no one remembers the girl being in the plane? The whole plot is built around this premise. Granted, they are the first passengers on the plane, but surely someone would have noticed them boarding, and some of the passengers would have noticed when they moved to some seats in the back of the plane. (Why were they not given seats in the back rows, which were empty?) Why on earth would the criminals build this elaborate plot to extort money from the airline based on one little girl who would likely have been noticed by someone on the plane? It makes no sense.

Second, how did Kyle know that there were only enough explosives to destroy avionics area of the plane, and not enough to destroy the entire plane? She bets it all, including her daughter’s life that she is so anxious to save on the premise that the plastic explosives in the nose cone are all that there is. Why not get the hell out of the plane before pressing the detonator button, or simply warn airport authorities and avoid millions of dollars in damage to the plane? Okay, she was clearly very stressed, but not enough to endanger the life of her daughter recklessly!

Third, why did the flight attendant who was the accomplice not get off the plane with the rest of the crew? Why did the flight attendants not notice that she did not egress with them? Would they not think that was just a bit odd? Shouldn’t this have clued them in that the facts were a bit different than presented?

Fourth, why would Carson risk it all on his girlfriend, the flight attendant, who was unproven and clearly a nervous Nellie? Sure, he needed an accomplice to pull it off, but a smooth operator like Carson would have realized she was too risky.

And then there is the whole absurd premise that they could find just the right lady in just the right situation and somehow still manage to arrange it all perfectly.

You likely found more flaws with the script of this movie than I did. Leave a comment if so inclined.

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