Flightplan

***

Reviewed by: Chris

Flightplan
"An exercise in strong acting that stands up as a Saturday night thriller."

Feature films invite us to defy reality, believe a fiction, suspend disbelief. The actor has to make the unreal, real.

Jodie Foster has done this in the past with notable success and often chooses stories that parallel our unwillingness to accept: a rape victim that no one believed, a paranoid in a locked room that had every reason to be afraid, a scientist that finds proof of aliens. In Flightplan, she goes one further - a mother who loses her daughter during a transatlantic flight and whom no one, including the audience, believes.

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Aircraft engineer Kyle Pratt (Foster) is devastated by the sudden death of her husband. She flies his body back from Germany to New York on a state-of-the-art airliner, which she designed. Dozing off for a few minutes, she awakes to find her six-year-old daughter is missing. Frantic searches ensue, as mounting evidence suggests that the girl was never on board in the first place.

Flightplan combines a taut psychological thriller with a deepening mystery and tremendous emotional punch. But does the denouement justify the storyline, the switching positions we are forced to adopt about Kyle's sanity and the existence of her daughter? Or is it simply a story that cashes in on current passenger apprehension over hijacking and Foster's considerable acting talent?

She is at her best, as an outraged, highly intelligent woman with a mother's bottled up, barely contained grief providing simmering emotional power.

It is a remarkable testament to her talent that she can carry such an unlikely story, single-handed. She imbues the confined space of an aircraft with an energy that doesn't wilt for a moment, ensuring that our attention never flags. Ably assisted by Sean Bean, as the captain, wanting to give her every benefit of the doubt, but increasingly forced to accept the evidence of his own eyes, and Air Marshal Peter Sarsgaard, who plays an interesting yet inscrutable character, we are mesmerised by Kyle Pratt and our own difficulty in knowing whether to believe her.

As the pieces unravel, we are presented with a bewildering complexity of background information which, without Foster to carry it, or Hitchcockian logic to prove it, are tempted to dismiss as over ambitious. As an exercise in strong acting that stands up as a Saturday night thriller, Flightplan delivers in Club Class, but, as the sum of its parts, it is as convoluted and full of wishful thinking as someone trying to stretch out in Economy.

Reviewed on: 25 Nov 2005
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Has Jodie lost her mind, or her daughter, on the long haul flight?
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Read more Flightplan reviews:

Anton Bitel ***1/2
The Exile *

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