Thursday, October 06, 2005
Movie Review: "Flightplan"
Starring Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Erika Christensen and Sean Bean
Directed by Robert Schwentke
More often than not, big-budget thrillers tend to play it dumb and predictable, undermining the very thrills they're supposed to provide audiences. Then again, most thrillers don't have the pleasure of a two-time Oscar winner at its disposal.
But that's exactly the genre that Jodie Foster has chosen for her last two starring roles, in 2002 for director David Fincher in "Panic Room" and now "Flightplan," helmed by Robert Schwentke, making his major film debut. In both, she plays a protective mother who finds herself in nerve-wracking situations involving her daughter, with most of the action taking place in one location.
In "Flightplan," Foster portrays Kyle Pratt, a jet propulsion engineer who boards a huge double decker plane (one that she helped design) on flight from Germany to New York. She's newly widowed, following the death of her husband and is almost numb with grief, while still trying to maintain a calm exterior for her young daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston). On the flight, the two decide to take a nap, but when Kyle wakes up, Julia is gone.
Concerned about her daughter's well being from the get go, Kyle quickly enlists the aid of the plane's crew to help find her. However, after initial attempts fail to produce results, Kyle demands that the captain (Sean Bean) order a more thorough search of the plane. The main problem he sees with the idea is that no one remembers seeing the girl in the first place, nor was she counted among the passenger list.
This is clearly not welcome news for Kyle, who becomes increasingly frustrated and anxious to understand how someone can simply disappear from a plane at 37,000 feet. Meanwhile, some of the crew harbors skepticism of her mental state, enlisting the aid of an onboard air marshal (Peter Sarsgaard) to keep her under control.
Going into "Flightplan" knowing as little as possible can only enhance the enjoyment of the remainder of the film, so I'll say no more about the story. Just be aware that there are at least two main paths the film could travel down, and while it's disappointing it chooses the more well traveled one, the film is still fairly effective.
Much of the credit has to go to Foster, who has made a career of playing women with steely resolve that is in stark contrast to her relatively petite physical appearance. She brings an intense presence to her role that likely exceeds what the script by Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray calls for, but the film is better for it, as it helps better ground the story in realism. Well, at least until the third act, which doesn't really provide the payoff it had been laying the foundation for up until then. While "Flightplan" is a solid heavily Hitchcock-influenced thriller that makes very good use of its seemingly limited space, don't ask too many questions about it afterwards. Otherwise, you might come upon plot holes big enough to fly a plane through.
(Rated PG-13 for violence and some intense plot material.)