Movie Review
Flightplan
Flightplan poster
By Scott Sycamore     Published September 26, 2005
US Release: September 23, 2005

Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Starring: Jodie Foster , Peter Sarsgaard , Sean Bean , Marlene Lawston

PG-13
Running Time: 98 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $89,706,988
B
When a movie isn't killed by its over-saturated marketing push, you know it has something going for it.
A pleasant surprise indeed, this movie was. Sorry, I'll stop talking like Yoda. I was kind of annoyed from months of seeing the same preview for this movie in theaters. It's far and away my most-seen preview of the year, and it has been total overkill. Not only did I know the trailers contents all too well but I felt that they revealed way too much about the plot (hardly a rare occurrence). So imagine my delight when I found myself absorbed in this flick despite knowing quite a bit about it beforehand. When a movie isn't killed by its grotesquely over-saturated marketing push, you know it has something going for it.

The main thing it has is an unvarnished and effective performance from Jodie Foster. This is more Oscar-worthy material from the woman who once inspired a presidential assassination attempt. She is suitably intense and has an air of believability that really ropes you into the suspense-laden story. It's easy to see why she's so respected by other actors and industry types: she nails those strong middle-aged woman roles of which females complain there are not enough. She is both entertaining and emotional, which satisfies the high-minded types as well as the mainstreamers. The only real complaint is that we don't see enough of her (she often waits up to three years between films).

The supporting cast is uniformly excellent as well; there are no real standouts, but that's the way it's supposed to be. The actors create this tapestry of interaction that suits the film beautifully. Each performer just lives in their role, and nobody tries to go too far in order to get that "screen-grabbing" moment. When everyone plays it cool, they allow the film to shine on its own merits. Some people think that there should be an Academy Award for ensemble acting; films like this prove that such a notion is hardly ridiculous.

I shouldn't have to explain the plot; it has been hammered into my head (and probably yours too) by the incessant ads. And it's counterproductive to give away anything in a mystery flick like this. I'll tell you the bare bones. Kyle Pratt (Foster, with a man's first name for some reason) and her young daughter are grieving over the week-ago death of their husband/father. They try to escape their reality by flying from Germany to New York on a massive double-decker airliner, which Kyle helped design. In mid-flight, while both are asleep, Kyle's daughter disappears. Then the frantic search is on, as we question Pratt's sanity, and the airborne tension and paranoia get ratcheted up with each new development.

This really is an involving suspense thriller that keeps you on your toes. To be engaged all the way throughout is a somewhat rare treat in the modern cinematic arena. The direction by German Robert Schwentke is excellent, some of the best of the year. The camera swoops around the frightfully large airliner with ease and grace. The lighting and set design are absolutely spot-on, from the oversize passenger area to the cavernous bowels of the plane. Everything is handled with the assurance of a natural filmmaker; Flightplan has that richly cinematic quality that is absent from so many works one comes across - in the theater or otherwise. I was also impressed that the movie manages to be thrilling and engrossing with a PG-13 rating: it doesn't feel as if it was toned down to appeal to a larger audience, it simply works on its own terms without violence or overly harsh content. That's quite a bold stroke, with the either-or dynamic operating in most movies we see.

I imagine that a good deal of people who see this flick will have a problem with both the ending as well as the plot-holes that accumulate throughout. I say the ending because it is indeed pat, cliche, and just doesn't jibe with the rest of the film. An ending is so important to a story; psychology dictates that it is what people tend to remember the most. An off-key conclusion can tank what is otherwise a solid feature. While that doesn't happen here, this movie is definitely taken down a slight notch in its final passages. An ending more consistent with the tone of the rest of the film would have been appropriate. And then there are the plot-holes: some might not be as holey as they appear at first, but other things just nag at your brain coming out of the movie. Crucial developments just seem impossible within the contained situation. Some of it can be attributed to lazy screenwriting, but the main goal is to make the story happen and propel the audience through the experience. This is done admirably, despite the logical flaws that may be present. Overall, despite complaints that may arise, Flightplan is well worth seeing.
Scott's Grade: B
Scott's Overall Grading: 417 graded movies
A15.1%
B59.2%
C24.5%
D1.2%
F0.0%
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