Reel Opinions

Monday, September 26, 2005


One looks at Jodie Foster, and just has to wonder what the heck she saw in this project. Here is an enormously talented actress who appears in movies once in a blue moon, and whose return to the big screen usually is reason enough alone to plant my butt in a cineplex seat. What this script had to offer that the hundreds of others she probably rejects every year I have no idea, as Flightplan is a slow-paced, silly, and just plain boring thriller. It attempts to use its claustophobic setting of a luxury airliner to suspenseful effect, but shoots itself in the foot by filling that plane with a colorful and hateful cast of passengers and crew that are simply there to throw the audience off. As the film went on, I began to wonder if it was a prerequisite that you had to be shifty, annoying, or suspicious to be on this plane. From first frame to last, Flightplan is dead on arrival.

Jodie Foster takes the role of Kyle Pratt, a moody woman living in Berlin who is coping with the sudden death of her husband after he fell off the roof of their home building. The film is intentionally vague about whether his death was suicidal, accidental, or planned, so right there is a tip off that something's going on right from the beginning. With her six-year old daughter, Julia (Marlene Lawston), Kyle is preparing to fly to New York where her husband's body will be put to rest. And what a plane it is! Not only does it have two stories, but its got a bar and lounge area that looks like something out of a Las Vegas hotel. Throw in flight attendants that give dirty looks at Foster's character even when there's no reason to, and a passenger list that reads like it came out of some hack writer's "obnoxious passenger character handbook", and you're in for a movie experience that's akin to sitting on an airplane next to some smelly guy who makes rude noises the entire flight.

Kyle falls asleep mid-flight, and when she awakens, she discovers that Julia is gone. The strange thing is, no one remembers seeing the child, nor does anyone even remember her being with Kyle when she boarded the plane. Julia's luggage is mysteriously gone, her boarding pass has disappeared, and there are no records of the child ever even being a passenger on the flight. Julia becomes increasingly paranoid and frightened for the life of her daughter, while the Captain (Sean Bean), the air marshal (Peter Sarsgaard), and the entire staff become increasingly frustrated with the woman, believing her to be crazy, especially after they receive word from the Berlin morgue that her daughter supposedly died along with the husband. Is Kyle imagining things? Does someone on the plane know something that they're not telling? Is this all some sort of elaborate cover up that someone is pulling? Will you actually care when the climax is revealed?

Flightplan wants to be tense and layers on the suspense thick with each passing scene. Unfortunately, we don't believe it for a second, as the characters are so over the top and cartoonish that I was almost laughing at certain scenes. Jodie Foster plays her descent into panic a little bit too well to the point that she became shrill and annoying. She screams almost every line of dialogue she has during the entire middle portion of the movie, and acts over the top simply so that the audience will suspect that she really is crazy, even though we know that she is not. (It'd be a cop out if the ending turned out to be she really did imagine her daughter being on the plane with her.) I mean, okay, I can understand getting crazy if your child disappeared, and everyone tried to convince you she doesn't exist, but Foster plays it like she just escaped from a nut house. She's supposed to be a strong and determined woman that we can root for, but it only made me want to see her get sucked out of the airplane, and fall 30,000 feet to her demise. At one point, one of the characters tells her "I can understand why your husband jumped. A few more hours of putting up with you, and I'll want to do the same". Hearing this, I said to myself, "Amen, brother..."

As if Foster isn't enough, we've got a whole plane full of crazies. We've got obnoxious kids, we've got ornery people who constantly complain, we've got more red herrings than a fresh fish market, we've even got people who literally start fist fights in the aisles. I wouldn't want to be stuck on a plane with these people, let alone watch a movie about being stuck on a plane with them. The characters are so thinly developed as to be non-existent, especially the flight crew. When one of the flight attendents is revealed to play a role in the film's plot, it's not so much a surprise as it is a "what the" moment, as the movie has gone to no effort whatsoever to develop her as a character, and had mainly kept her in the background most of the time. That the movie suddenly asks us to pay attention to her seems cheap, like the filmmakers needed someone, ANYONE surprising to play a role in the climax, and just picked her. Indeed, when the movie finally plays all of its cards during the climax and reveals all it feels more anticlimactic than the thrills it strives for.

Director Robert Schwentke tries his best to make the most out of his limited environment and hold our interest, but it's really in vain, as the movie is so shallow and dull that he's fighting a losing battle. He even tries a few camera tricks, like slow motion, that do nothing to enhance the film, as they serve no purpose whatsoever. Jodie Foster will be running down the hall to speak to the Captain, film switches to slow motion. She recognizes someone on the plane, and runs over to confront him? Slow motion. It doesn't quite get excissive, but I did have to fight back my laughter the 3rd time they did it in less than an hour. The film even features a surprisingly bland music score by composer James Horner, whose mind seems to have been somewhere else when he was writing the score.

It's been 2 hours since my screening got out, and I'm still trying to figure out what could have driven Foster to this project other than a quick pay day. She's much too good for this film, as is most of the cast. This movie is a stark contrast to the other film I saw today, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride. Whereas Bride was lively, darkly jovial and fun, Flightplan is just a big load of wasted effort that probably shouldn't have been in the first place.

See the movie times in your area or buy the DVD at Amazon!



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