a critiQal film review Flightplan (2005)

Plot: Kyle (Foster) has recently lost her husband. Now, she and her daughter have the unfortunate task of bringing his body back to America from Germany. 3 hours into their flight, however, Kyle wakes to find her daughter missing - and no record of her ever being on board. As she races to find her daughter, she must decide if the world has gone crazy - or just her.

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  • ...showcases what Foster can do as a cornered heroine if given a good co-star or two.

Apparently, Hollywood filmmakers have decided it’s been long enough since 9/11. After seeing Red Eye (2005) just a week or 2 ago, Blockbuster® has delivered one more airplane-related film to our door – and suddenly we feel inundated. With that in mind, we went into Flightplan already a little sick of the subject matter.

Still, the combination of Jodie Foster, Sean Bean, and what looked to be an intriguing plot were enough to plant us in front of our TV. But, would Flightplan’s more experienced actors simply recreate Red Eye (2005) for us, or were we in for something more?

Jodie Foster seems to be at her best in a confined setting, as she displayed so well with Panic Room (2002), so Flightplan is a perfect role for her. It sets her up to show how well she plays the caged animal role, since she’s trapped in the confined space of a plane in flight for most of the film. While she’s racing to find her daughter, she’s at the top of her game, keeping the audience right by her side for each and every scene. When the action dies down for a moment or two, however, she tends to lose her usually cement-like grip on the viewer, and the interest starts to wane. Thankfully, there is not too much downtime in Flightplan, so that little flaw is easily overlooked.

Jodie Foster isn’t alone in Flightplan, however. Peter Sarsgaard contributes a worthwhile performance as an Air Marshall, that elusive new profession that’s been in the news lately. He brings off his character with finesse, and keeps the rather unbalanced Jodie Foster character in check throughout the film. Sean Bean, as usual, turns in a quietly impressive performance – and easily manages to keep the audience guessing about his true motives for the entire film. Erika Christensen, Kate Beahan and the rest are mostly just there to fill in rather simplistic roles, and do little to contribute to the film.

Flightplan, just like Red Eye (2005), tries it’s best to keep the audience on the edge of it’s seat by using the national fear we still hold of planes after 9/11, and then throws in a more personal fear for the lead character. In Red Eye (2005), it was the main character’s father that was in harm’s way and out of our heroine’s reach. In Flightplan, it gets a little more psychological, as the perceived threat against our heroine’s daughter may be just the imaginings of a grief-stricken widow.

The director does his best to keep the tension high by combining the two of those fears (general and personal) into a hook that will grab the viewer and keep their attention glued until almost the very end. Again, as in , Flightplan falls apart a little at the end, going for more the clichéd ending than something truly original, unfortunately.

The visual effects are impressive enough in Flightplan that most viewers won’t even know they are visual effects. A truly impressive visual effect in a thriller isn’t a gigantic explosion or some fantastical creature – instead, it’s the way that the filmmakers mimic reality with something non-existent (think about it – what’s more impressive? A gigantic fantastical creature, or how that fantastical creature reacts to the world around him? Anyone can make a creature, it’s only the true professional visual effects artist who can make him look believable in any setting).

In Flightplan, the main visual effects involve the airplane itself – in case you missed it, the double-decker airplane they are in for a good portion of the film doesn’t actually exist. However, the visual effects artists worked their magic, and each scene involving the plane – from outside or in – is entirely realistic (if you’re into visual effects, watch the visual effects segment of the Making-Of Featurette to see the differences – it’s impressive to see what they are able to do these days). That’s the true test of visual effects in a film like Flightplan – if you don’t know they exist, they’ve done their job.

Jodie Foster is starting to get back into the swing of this acting thing. After a lull since The Silence of the Lambs (1991), she’s discovered a new niche for herself – the cornered heroine. Give her a good co-star or two, and she’ll keep the audience enthralled until the end. As long as she stays in this new niche, you can count on Heather and I being there to see what she does – as will most.

While we wait for the next one, however, be sure to check out Flightplan – it’s definitely worth the rental.

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