Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

"As functional as Plane is, it's nuts and bolts, by the numbers, and for much of the time pedestrian."

Plane is a straightforward action film. It does little new, but most of it well. It has a familiar set-up, familiar stakes, familiar familial issues, and...

There's a succession of familiar faces too. Tony Goldwyn and Paul Ben-Victor are the main men in the airline's crisis room. Remi Adeleke has leveraged his time as a Navy SEAL into on-screen roles where actual training actually convinces. Evan Dane Turner is (as many before him) making the transition from stunt performer to credible bad guy. He's not alone in that movement from sort of behind to sort of in front of the camera, Oliver Trevana and Claro de los Reyes might be on different sides of the aisle but are also both familiarly multi-hyphenate.

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Few faces are as familiar as Gerard Butler's though. Here he shares limelight with Mike Colter. Colter's had a leading role (Luke Cage) in an MCU series, a recurring role in TV's The Good [Various], and while neither are stretched both acquit themselves well. It's a novelty to see Butler's Scottishness foregrounded, though his accent wanders at least as much as his character seems to have. A line about "home-made haggis neeps and tatties" probably hits differently in Glasgow, even more so if you have a passing familiarity with the FDA's rulings on the subject(s).

From the off, the clich├ęs are ready on the presses. It's New Year's Eve, he's seeing his daughter, he's late for the flight he's flying, and so on. The continual presence of smartphones is sometimes well used, and at others not so. GPS doesn't require data, and there's an early expository mix-up that seems predicated upon a physical photograph that appears several times rather than a lockscreen. There are other details that seem a bit suspect too, including that a pilot based out of the island nation of Singapore didn't expect to ever have to say "prepare to ditch." I know that Sully did, and if my calculations are correct the Hudson River is slightly smaller than the South China Sea. I won't even go into his apparent inability to remember a particular number, despite it being easy to connect to (amongst other things) a valid postcode in Singapore, two Beechcrafts and a Boeing, and, perhaps most appositely, a cobblers in Penicuik.

At one point someone leaves their product placed laptop to get a bit of paper, and while I'll admit that stress can do a number on folk one would hope that media would eventually remember that computers can be used to store information. There's even a Windows application called Notepad, and at 40 years it's as old as the airframe that someone complains about. That's assuming your correspondent has correctly identified it as a variant of the MD-80, though the cockpit avionics don't match expectations in terms of design or failure modes. It's almost certainly a function of availability and the presence of the airstair that means it's set on the craft, but it is actually relevant that it's less fuel-efficient (even in newer guises like the MD-90 family) than equivalent airframes.

In other places details are not quite on the right side. A reference to Keyhole imagery suggests that Trailblazer airlines (Singapore hub, New York headquarters) has access to US intelligence satellites. That would actually make sense if they were a CIA front, but Air America this ain't. The crisis room is spun up more quickly than that in A Hijacking, but even at a circumstance reduced airspeed of 145 knots this clips along a lot more quickly.

It's co-written by JP Davis, who penned and starred in 2004's boxing mentor-pic Fighting Tommy Riley. That was followed by an 18 year hiatus punctured only by 2007 Matthew Modine/Michel Laroque romantic comedy The Neighbour, until last year's The Contractor gave Chris Pine a turn in an action film similarly straightforward in the title department. The (spy) novelist Charles Cumming also writes; he writes the Thomas Kell series and has been attached to Mitch Swenson's Ronseal-worthy The Tracking Of A Russian Spy for almost a decade.

The plot of that is about as hard to explain. There are some neat details. Colter's Louis Gaspare has a history that more than adequately explains his skills (and languages). Butler's Brodie Torrance appears to have retained at least some of the lessons from his time in the RAF, and the circumstances that bring him to the fateful flight-deck are well constructed. That's part and parcel of the problem though, which is that as functional as Plane is, it's nuts and bolts, by the numbers, and for much of the time pedestrian.

Jean-Francois Richet directed the two parts of Mesrine, The Emperor Of Paris, One Wild Moment (a remake of Un Moment D'├ęgarement). This is only his second English language film, and he deserves better than this and Mel Gibson vehicle Blood Father. For those keeping track, that was the one in between Machete Kills and Daddy's Home 2, a run further bracketed by Get The Gringo and Dragged Across Concrete.

Like that last, it's got a bizarre amount of firepower. I don't know how often hostage rescue missions bring anti-material rifles, but once it's thrown up on screen the baddies are thrown across it. The airline clearly sometimes visits the badguy shop beloved of villains across any number of other franchises, though the prominent display of laptop backs and the wet bar might have more to do with the business of film than any intimation about Trailblazer's finances. The bad guys are so thickly drawn that all their actions bear a black marker. They aren't quite the mirrorshade paedophiles of Rambo (2008) or The Kite Runner but nor are there any of the subtleties of The Raid or Dredd.

There's an old adage that you can only make soup with the vegetables you have, and from stock characters Plane manages fare that's better than thin gruel, but neither hearty nor satisfying. As with its geometric namesake it's flat, and to get anywhere interesting you'd want to find a tangent.

Reviewed on: 21 Jan 2023
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A pilot finds himself caught in a war zone after he's forced to land his commercial aircraft during a terrible storm.
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Director: Jean-François Richet

Writer: Charles Cumming, JP Davis

Starring: Gerard Butler, Daniella Pineda, Mike Colter, Tony Goldwyn, Lilly Krug, Tara Westwood, Remi Adeleke

Year: 2023

Runtime: 107 minutes

Country: UK, US


Streaming on: Digital

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