It seems as though we are all extra curious as to whom we share an airplane with these days. I only fly about twice a year, but post 9/11 the tension can be felt upon the first step onto the aircraft. We look each other over as we walk down the aisles, looking for anyone who could be remotely suspicious and have evil intentions. Perhaps this is all ironic considering that airport security is as thorough as ever (at least in theory), but Hollywood has done a very good job of exploiting our everyday fears this summer.
Flightplan is a crackler of a suspense film and a solid entry into the early autumn season. It’s another take on Hitchcock’s 1938 film, The Lady Vanishes, but it is still a near-flawless setup with a satisfying conclusion, albeit far-fetched. There are strong performances across the board and a rising tension that carries throughout the entire movie.
Kyle Pratt (Foster) is a propulsion engineer and recent widow. Her husband has just fallen to his death, and Kyle and her daughter, Julia (Marlene Lawston), are on a lengthy Berlin-to-New York flight to get home and bury him. Kyle and Julia are the first on board, and it doesn’t take long for either to fall asleep.
A few hours pass and Kyle awakens. She is surprised to see Julia not sitting next to her and starts to calmly walk the plane in search of her. No one has seen her or even remembers her being on board at all, for that matter. Kyle’s paranoia heightens, and she soon seeks the help of Captain Rich (Bean), a man who clearly believes she is delusional and for good reason; Julia’s name is not on the flight manifest. Gene Carson (Sarsgaard) is the undercover Air Marshal on board, and he is assigned the task of keeping Kyle calm until the crew has had adequate time to search the plane, as required by procedure for such circumstances.
Proceeding with further plot synopsis is unnecessary as spoilers would inevitably surface. The film’s trailer covers over ¾ of the film, but I am glad to report that the film does not resort to a tired cookie-cutter resolution. Surprises are in store, even if they do widen the plot holes. Just go with it the same way you did with Red Eye and you’ll be just fine.
Director Robert Schwentke demonstrates a mandatory understanding of the material and genre. He establishes the over-sized jet with a silky smooth roaming camera and maintains slickness throughout. He can make us gasp and also guess with the turn of a camera, as it should be in the suspense genre. He is definitely a director to watch.
Jodie Foster, essentially dormant since 2002’s Panic Room, seems to eat up these strong woman roles. She is completely believable as Kyle and accomplishes the most complex angle of her character (obtaining our sympathy) with ease. Peter Sarsgaard, hot off the success of 2004’s Garden State, flips the John Malkovich switch and always maintains a sense of suspicion. Solid supporting work is turned in by Sean Bean and Erika Christensen.
Flightplan joins the club and performs a fresh take on seemingly tired material. The whole film is a roller coaster of tension, and it’s refreshing to have films like this back at the multiplex. There are no cheap scares or false tactics, just a whodunit with a dash of claustrophobia. Just don’t let anyone spoil it for you.
Studio: Buena Vista Pictures
Length: 93 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for violence and some intense plot material.
Theatrical Release: September 23, 2005
Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Written by: Peter A. Dowling & Billy Ray.
Cast: Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean, Kate Beahan, Michael Irby, Assaf Cohen