FLIGHTPLAN (director: Robert Schwentke; screenwriters: Peter A. Dowling/Billy Ray; cinematographer: Florian Ballhaus; editor: Thom Noble; music: James Horner; cast: Jodie Foster (Kyle Pratt), Peter Sarsgaard (Carson), Sean Bean (Captain Rich), Kate Beahan (Stephanie), Michael Irby (Obaid), Assaf Cohen (Ahmed), Erika Christensen (Fiona), Marlene Lawston (Julia Pratt); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Brian Grazer; Touchstone Pictures and Imagine Entertainment; 2005)
“This is the kind of empty film that usually plays on airline flights.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
“Flightplan” is an unbelievable damsel-in-distress thriller built around the following gimmicky premise: an emotionally distraught woman boards a jumbo jet with her shaken 6-year-old daughter, takes a nap, and when she awakens, her daughter has vanished. The woman is Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster), a successful American propulsion engineer stationed in Berlin, and the cute daughter is Julie (Marlene Lawston). They are taking a flight from Berlin to New York with the body of her hubby on board for a burial on Long Island. Kyle’s hubby jumped off a building a week ago.
Things start getting incredulous when the airplane crew doesn’t believe Kyle that her girl vanished because there’s no boarding pass for the little girl and no one ever saw her. The military bearing captain (Sean Bean) is forced by the crazed mom to conduct a search of the two-decker transcontinental airbus, but doesn’t search the entire plane. He explains it’s not necessary to search the baggage hold because someone might get unnecessarily hurt (Yikes!!!). When mom doesn’t accept his wacky judgment and goes on a search mission on her own, she’s interfered with by the smug air marshal Carson (Peter Sarsgaard). Finally, when the crew receives the false message from Berlin that the daughter also was killed when her father jumped, mom is thought to be a crazy woman who made up the story of the lost child and is handcuffed. These were plot points I couldn’t swallow whole in the film directed by the German Robert Schwentke, even though he helms it with considerable technical skill but without much of a plausible story as scripted by Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray.
What Schwentke creates is a nightmare scenario, which makes the film tense but because things move from one preposterous moment to the next even more preposterous moment the film never gets grounded in reality and has the feel of a scary amusement park ride. Kyle searches the claustrophobic jumbo airplane for the entire film when we already know the girl boarded with her and that the passengers, air marshal, and airline crew are either blind, dumb, or covering up a crime when they say they didn’t see the girl. Since we already know that Kyle is not delusional but only a mom willing to go to the mat for her precious child, all the film can do is to tap into modern man’s contemporary fears of losing a child, terrorism, and fear of flying. If the filmmaker could have worked with a less far-fetched tale, he could have come up with a more successful psychological thriller instead of resorting to an action thriller that doesn’t intellectually hold up when scrutinized for details.
Even a good actress like Jodie Foster can’t make a go of such hokum, and the big twist that comes in the final act that explains all just piles on more hokum. This is the kind of empty film that usually plays on airline flights.
REVIEWED ON 9/26/2005 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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