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∑ 93 minutes
Directed by Robert Schwentke
Written by Peter A. Dowling, Billy Ray
· Jodie Foster
· Peter Sarsgaard
· Sean Bean
· Kate Beahan
· Michael Irby
Movies often provide audiences an escape from the real world with imaginative stories and interesting characters. Then there are the times when a film is so unbelievable and ridiculous that they still maintain a certain level of enjoyment.
Flightplan is an example of the latter. Jodie Foster plays Kyle Pratt, an airplane engineer and mother of a six-year-old daughter, Julia. Following the devastating loss of her husband, she and her daughter must return to New York from overseas with his body. Once aboard the airplane, Julia and the majority of her belongings mysteriously disappear while the two take a nap at the back of the plane. Neither the flight attendants nor passengers notice, and the crew even denies the fact that she was ever on board at all. This causes the panic-driven mother to hysterically rush around the plane to search for her, while accusing others of having a part in the disappearance.
There is nothing very special about Flightplan. Itís a thriller, but without much thrill. The plot proves completely unbelievable from the start, when not even one passenger is able to verify the fact that Kyle boarded the plane with the little girl. There is supposed to be some level of doubt that she exists, but there are just too many clues that point away from the idea that she could be delusional or inventing the child. The creepy, annoying guy sitting a few seats back (who turns out to be the Air Marshal), a heart drawn on the condensation of a window, and a suspicious stewardess all provide clues to her sanity. Even more improbable is the ending that explains the sleeping girl was shoved into a beverage cart. Surely she would have woken up to make some kind of protest. It is as if the writers underestimate the intelligence of the audience.
Visually, Flightplan doesnít have a lot to offer. Obviously most of the movie takes place aboard an airplane. All the audience is able to see are rows and rows of seats, the first class area, the cockpit, and a huge engine room. The scenery gets boring pretty fast. This is supposed to be a state-of-the-art plane, but thereís nothing too unique about it besides the fact that it has more than one level for seating. When the movie finely does speed up and get interesting during the climax, there is a huge explosion that is completely laughable. Not only does it look amazingly fake and lackluster, but it happens pretty unexpectedly. The audience actually laughed out loud at how bad it was.
What makes Flightplan work to whatever degree it does muster is Foster. She plays the distraught mother with amazing emotion. Itís easy to sympathize with her character and cheer her on as she tries to discover what happened. Itís really entertaining to watch as she runs up and down the aisles screaming and making wild accusations. You want her to prevail in the end, and thatís really the only reason to continue watching. None of the other characters are worth empathizing with, especially Peter Sarsgaard, who plays the Air Marshal. He has this lazy-eye thing going on that is also incredibly distracting. Just as it is easy to like Fosterís character, it is similarly easy to despise his. Erika Christensen (Swimfan) also makes a random appearance as a flight-attendant. Why she was cast is anyoneís guess. Her character isn't very well developed, and she could have easily been replaced with any young actress.
There isn't very much suspense in Flightplan. It is pretty obvious where the plot is going at least halfway through the film. The action is interesting enough to keep the audienceís attention, and the ending is somewhat different than I predicted. I was confident there would be a happy ending, and that the bad guys would get hauled off by the police. In this case, I was half right. Despite being somewhat humorous and unbelievable, the story does manage to engage the viewer. It is a fun train-wreck, or in this case, plane-wreck. If people care enough to applaud at the end, I think thatís a pretty big feat and measure of the entertainment value.
Despite the absence of suspense, a twist ending, or any resemblance to reality, Flightplan still delivers on emotion. Itís the kind of experience where you actually care about what happens to the characters, in spite of yourself. Thereís nothing groundbreaking or earth shattering within the confines of the film and its plane cabin setting. Yet it is still somewhat enjoyable if your expectations arenít too high and you are just looking for some senseless, beyond ridiculous fun. If thatís the case, Flightplan is just the ticket.