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Flightplan Review

By Shawn McKenzie 09/23/2005

I know that Flightplan comes so close after the release of Wes Craven’s thriller Red Eye (many other critics have already mentioned the comparison), but this movie, in my opinion, is just as good in a slightly different way.

Propulsion engineer Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) is mourning the loss of her husband David (John Benjamin Hickey) from a fall off an apartment building that he endured a week ago in Berlin.  The problem is…was the fall an accident…or did he commit suicide?  She and her 6-year-old daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston) are going to fly back from Berlin back to New York with the coffin on an Aalto Airline double-decker airplane, a new airliner that she helped design.  The mortuary director (Christian Berkel) tells Kyle that the coffin requires a code to lock the coffin for international flights.  That night, Kyle thinks that she sees two shadowy figures in the apartment across the courtyard.  The next day, Kyle and Julia go to Berlin International Airport to get on the overnight transatlantic flight.  Julia is afraid to walk outside so soon after her father’s death, so Kyle covers her with a jacket as she takes her to the cab on the way to the airport.  The flight is delayed, and Julia wanders off to the concession stand.  This isn’t the first time that Kyle loses Julia in this movie.  After she finds her daughter, the two are the first to board the plane.  Following them is the Loud family (Shane Edelman, Mary Gallagher, Haley Ramm, and Forrest Landis) and a young man named Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard), who turns out to be the plane’s air marshal.  Kyle and Julia are both tired, so Kyle suggests that they stretch out on one of the empty seats in the back.  Kyle falls asleep, and then she wakes up a few hours later to find Julia missing.  She thinks that the girl has just possibly found some other kids to play with, since the plane is so huge and she could have hidden in many places within.  She starts to panic though once she is not able to find her right away.  The flight attendants, including Stephanie (Kate Beahan) and the new novice attendant Fiona (Erika Christensen), aren’t a lot of help, and she tries to see the pilot, Captain Rich (Sean Bean.)  She pounds on the locked cockpit door, but Gene stops her.  He has the captain meet with Kyle to see if there is any way they can find Julia.  Rich has all of the passengers stay in their seats while he has the flight crew search the plane.  He doesn’t want them to search the cargo hold though, because it would be too dangerous (besides…it would be difficult for a child to get up there anyway.)  Of course, Kyle wants to include the cargo hold, especially since the primary search becomes fruitless (and she is frustrated with a couple of attendants fooling around with each other when they should be searching), which makes Rich and Gene very agitated.  At one point, she accuses Obaid (Michael Irby) and Ahmed (Assaf Cohen), a couple of Arab passengers, as being the shadowy figures she saw the night before, but they produce a hotel bill that proves their location last night.  Unfortunately, Stephanie presents Kyle with the news that there is no record of Julia having ever boarded the plane, and that she thinks that Julia may have died at the same time as David, since she called the morgue and they told her that.  Kyle goes psychotic, and is knocked unconscious to calm her down.  When she wakes up, a therapist (Greta Scacchi) tries to help her deal with the trauma of having lost both her husband and her daughter.  Clues keep popping up that Kyle isn’t crazy, and she desperately tries to continue her search for Julia, who may or may not be dead.

The reason why this movie is different from Red Eye is that it is more Hitchcockian than that one.  This movie plays with your mind, making you doubt Kyle’s, and possibly your own, sanity.  You knew what the situation was in Red Eye, and Rachel McAdams’ character just had to find a way out of it.  Until the resolution, you’re not even sure if there is a “bad guy” in this movie.

A slight part of the movie was the resolution though, which I had a problem with ultimately.  I’m not going to give it away, but I thought that it came too quickly (it comes about two-thirds into it.)  I wanted it to come right before the end, but that would have dragged the movie out too long.  After the resolution, it becomes a tense, if only a somewhat clichéd, action flick.  That might be the fault of its screenwriters, Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray.

This is Foster’s first starring role since David Fincher’s 2002 movie Panic Room.  As much as I liked the movie, I’m wondering why she choose a project that was so similar to be her follow-up.  Both movies are thrillers where she plays a mother trying to protect her daughter.  I’m waiting for her to be in another Oscar type role, but in the meantime, these well-written thrillers are entertaining.

Many critics love Sarsgaard, but I honestly didn’t notice him until this year’s The Skeleton Key.  I’m predicting that he will very soon have the lead role in a wide release movie, and that he will play a good guy.

Along with Sarsgaard, Bean has admitted to a fear of flying, so it is ironic that he chose a role as the captain of an airplane.  I’m fairly certain though that they weren’t filming on a real E-474.  Even if he really was afraid of flying, it didn’t show in his performance.  In yet another supporting role for the actor, he plays his part effectively.

Even though Christensen and Beahan played vital roles, they are barely in the movie.  The same thing goes for Lawston, who makes her acting debut here.  At least they did their jobs well.

Flightplan is German director Robert Schwentke’s first American movie.  When you have Foster as your star, it isn’t too difficult to break into the American movie market.  It could have been so much worse though, and this movie will fly away with movie fans.


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