a critiQal film review Snakes on a Plane (2006)

Plot: FBI Agent Neville Flynn (Jackson) is escorting a witness to a brutal murder (Phillips) from Hawaii to Los Angeles so he can testify. Desperate to stay out of prison, the murderer unleashes hundreds of poisonous snakes on their flight.

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  • ...Samuel L. Jackson helps make this not as bad as it first appears.

The first time I saw a preview for this Snakes on a Plane, 2 thoughts passed through my head: “this has got to be a joke” and “why Sam why?” If it wasn’t a joke preview, then Mr. Samuel L. Jackson is just jumping at anything that he’s offered – without reading the script first. Then the internet started buzzing about the film. Apparently, a lot of people were excited about this film, while I cringed more at the new low in movie-making this movie seemed to signify.

Needless to say, I stayed away from the movie in theaters, and finally decided to rent the movie more because I knew it would freak Heather out (she hates snakes) then for any other reason. I grabbed a bunch of crackers for the cheese I was sure was on it’s way, and settled in to watch Snakes on a Plane.

Samuel L. Jackson can apparently make anything look better. His acting is always at such a level that it brings up it’s surroundings – no matter what they might be. That’s never been more apparent than in Snakes on a Plane. Despite the ridiculous premise and the major lack of any other acting talent, he makes this movie enjoyable to watch.

Romance, however, doesn’t seem to work for him, as his dealings with co-star Julianna Margulies help to emphasize. Thankfully, the filmmakers touch on that aspect only briefly, and let Samuel L. Jackson do what he does best: take on the action head-first.

Julianna Margulies, the ex-“ER” (TV) star who didn’t do a bad job in Ghost Ship (2002), doesn’t work as well in this film. Sorry, but her as a stewardess? It just doesn’t work. She looks like she might be more at home as a mechanic.

When Samuel L. Jackson is off-screen (especially in the beginning of the film), the viewer realizes that he’s the one bringing Snakes on a Plane together – and the other actors aren’t helping. True, their vocal capacities are helpful when they’re screaming, but if they aren’t, their stereotypical characters are spewing out bad dialogue. They are nothing more than snake fodder – and the viewer will never forget it.

The plot in Snakes on a Plane is hokey beyond almost all-belief. A guy witnesses a brutal murder, and so the murderer plants hundreds of snakes on the plane the witness is being transferred on. Yeah, sure – like that would really go unnoticed, especially with the heightened security factor these days. Of course, these snakes are let loose, and pandemonium erupts as they begin biting everyone they see (or, in the case of one particularly large snake, eating people whole).

The special effects artists seem to have made an extra effort to make up for such a cheesy plot. The snakes are all very lifelike (if some looking a bit bigger than normal), and the terror that erupts on the plane does manage to involve the audience a lot more than expected.

Sure, there are some ridiculous scenes (let’s just say the snakes visit the bathroom stalls first and bite the first things they see), but overall, a surprising amount of tension builds up as the passengers have to fight back against a seemingly endless mass of snakes. That’s not saying this is a truly frightening film, but the viewer may actually become a bit more involved in it than they expect to.

One major plot point that has started to pop up in films lately, Snakes on a Plane included, has this viewer a bit confused: What’s up with the 2-story planes? In all my years of flying, I have never even seen one of these 2-story planes, much less ridden in one, yet this is the third film I’ve seen involving 2-story planes (the other two were Flightplan (2005) and Soul Plane (2004)).

In the previous 2 films, their existence was at least partially explained, but Snakes on a Plane never once mentions that a 2-story plane is not the norm. Sure, they need to play a little loose with reality to make the movie more exciting (after all, the passengers would have had no chance for survival if they had been attacked on one of our normal passenger planes), but at least explain why it’s a 2-story plane.

(Or, am I just not in the know, and these things do exist? Let me know if you’ve ridden on one.)

Despite it’s many faults, Snakes on a Plane, thanks to Mr. Samuel L. Jackson and it’s special effects crew, isn’t as bad as I originally expected. True, this one won’t become a must-own for anyone I know, but for a couple hours on a Friday, it’s not so bad.

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