Snakes On A Plane

Snakes On A Plane

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Usually when a film has no press screenings and as little advance material as this, there's a good reason for it, so I went along expecting turkeys on a plane. To my surprise, I found myself watching one of the most entertaining movies of the summer. This film has some snakes, and a plane, and Samuel L Jackson, and it makes it pretty clear from the start that it doesn't need anything else.

The plot (if one can call it that) is simple: surfer dude Sean witnesses a murder; the gang boss who committed it tries to have him killed; Samuel L Jackson's Special Agent Neville Flynn escorts him on a plane to LA, where he's to testify; the gang boss arranges for the plane to be filled with poisonous snakes as a means of assassinarion. "Don't you think I exhausted all other options?" he asks in exasperation, as the security services lament: "This is one of those scenarios we didn't prepare for." The audience, of course, have had months to prepare, as excitement about this film has reached fever pitch. From their cheers and laughter throughout and their applause at the end, I'd say it did a pretty good job of giving them what they wanted.

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The success of Snakes On A Plane is built on two things. First of all, it realises it has no substance, and everything hinges on its style. From the beautiful, expansive cinematography of the early scenes to the perfectly arranged music, it pulls this off superbly. Its ridiculous but cleverly written dialogue is played absolutely straight. Its confidence is beguiling.

Secondly, it's really good at developing its minor characters. Here it benefits from an excellent cast who manage to put across plenty of personality and make themselves seem human without ever letting the comedy falter. They're stereotypes, of course, yet they're engaging enough for us to quickly identify who's who and keep track of their myriad personal stories. This really helps in the confusing scenes when there are snakes everywhere and lots of panicking and running about. It would have been easy to make a mess of these scenes and leave the audience bored, unable to tell what's going on, but the pacing here is good and the film coasts from time to time on the strength of its own ridiculousness.

It's clear that the producers were taking note of all the feedback they've received from the public since the idea was first aired. Practically every stupid and puerile suggestion for what snakes might do on a plane has been put into practice - but I think we can assume that people with a low tolerance for stupid things won't be going to see this film in the first place. As for the snakes' motivation, well, they've been excited by artificial pheromones so that they're now sex-crazed and looking for a bit of the old ultraviolence. They do things no normal snake would do. Samuel L Jackson does things no normal self-respecting A-list actor would do, but he's clearly having a great time.

Snakes On A Plane is basically a disaster movie, yet it manages to bypass the slow bits which normally weaken such films by being utterly straightforward about its intentions. There is never a dull moment in this film. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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Some snakes. On a plane. What more do you need to know?
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Read more Snakes On A Plane reviews:

Chris ***
Gator MacReady **

Director: David R Ellis

Writer: John Heffernan, Sebastian Gutierrez

Starring: Samuel L Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips, Rachel Blanchard, Flex Alexander, Kenan Thompson, Keith Dallas, Lin Shaye, Bruce James, Sunny Mabrey, Casey Dubois

Year: 2006

Runtime: 105 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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