Reviewed by: The Exile


Wearing her Panic Room face - pinched, paper-white and bug-eyed - Jodie Foster hurtles through Flightplan like an Oscar-winning actress looking for the script she was promised in the production meetings. "I have to find my daughter!" she moans, endlessly and fruitlessly, for we know no one is going to help her. Not the pilot, Captain Rich, played by welder-turned-actor Sean Bean as a kind of Boromir of the flight deck; not Air Marshal Gene Carson, given a transparently seductive menace by the normally subtle Peter Sarsgaard; and certainly not the bevy of Stepford Stewardesses, all of whom are too busy recovering from an over-indulgence in discount collagen coupons.

Flightplan, like the recent Red Eye, is yet another attempt by the movie industry to exploit our post-9/11 fear of flying, though Flightplan connects the dots more shamelessly by adding a quartet of shifty-looking Arabs to the passenger list. But before we take off, the film opens with some truly lovely shots of a snowbound Berlin, courtesy of German cinematographer Florian Ballhaus (The Secret Lives of Dentists).

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Kyle Pratt (Foster), propulsion engineer extraordinaire, is making arrangements to transport the body of her dead husband, who mysteriously fell from the roof of their apartment building, back to Long Island for burial. With her traumatised daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston) in tow, Kyle settles down in the coach section of the 425-passenger aircraft she helped design. (At this point I was so busy wondering why they weren't in first class I completely missed the drinks order and the multi-lingual safety announcements.)

At 40,000 feet, Julia disappears and the next 30 minutes are spent watching Jodie make That Face and everyone else suspect her of being an over-medicated, grieving widow. Julia is not on the flight manifest, a hospital in Berlin claims she fell from the roof along with her father and maybe Kyle is a little bit nuts? Clearly the writers - Peter A Dowling and Billy Ray (who co-wrote and directed the excellent Shattered Glass) - are unaware that to suspect Clarice Starling of derangement is like suspecting Hannibal Lecter of a normal digestive system, because they insist on flapping this particular red herring in our faces much longer than necessary. Anyone who has seen the ill-fated Nell knows Jodie won't be revisiting retardation any time soon.

German director Robert Schwentke, who previously assaulted us with flayed flesh in the grisly Tattoo (2002), makes elegant use of the massive airliner's gleaming spaces. Weaving his camera around milling passengers and banks of equipment, sliding through crawlspaces and storage bins like a frequent-flyer rat, he adds energy to a script that otherwise proceeds with plodding predictability and a blithe disregard for both logic and physics. Yet no amount of visual brio can redeem the film's final two minutes, a sickly apology to misunderstood minorities so manipulative the audience I was with couldn't help but emit a collective groan.

The resolute mommy fiercely fighting for her child is a staple of American movies, headlined by Sally Field's upper-register performance in Not Without My Daughter - a title, like Field's acting, just begging for an exclamation point. Here, Foster's plight more convincingly parallels that of Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, whose surrogate child has been similarly cocooned by a gigantic, mindless beast. The difference being, of course, that Aliens is a real movie.

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
Chris ***


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