Grade: B+
Year: 2005
Director: Robert Schwentke
Writers: Peter A. Dowling & Billy Ray
Genre: Thriller
Rated: PG-13
By Scott Spicciati


The year 2005 has been a great one for terror at 40,000 feet. While the crown thus far belongs to Wes Craven's surprisingly enjoyable Red Eye, Robert Schwentke's "Flightplan" maintains the same level of absurdity and is a lot of fun to watch when you don't take it too seriously.

Unlike Red Eye which begins cheery and upbeat (and therefore probably more effective later on), "Flightplan" opens somberly. Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) and her 6-year-old daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston) are leaving Berlin for the United States on the airplane which she helped design. In the hold is the body of Kyle's husband, whose death may or may not have been an accident. He fell, and now Julia is terrified of stairs and refuses to walk on the icy sidewalks.

The plane Kyle and Julia board is the largest jumbo jet in the world, and under different circumstances it would be a ride looking forward to, but not when your daughter goes missing mid-flight and the cabin crew can't find her.

But is Julia really missing? Was she ever on the plane in the first place? Is she even alive? These questions are unmistakably important and you'd think the answers are simple, but we can't honestly answer them because the story from Kyle's perspective may not be reliable considering the factors.

She begins searching the plane; its many hallways, corridors, lavatories and lounges. When her daughter doesn't turn up she gets nervous and her patience wears thin. Making matters worse, the flight attendants never saw Julia board the plane and seem reluctant to help. Maybe they're hiding something. Even more disturbing is the fact that Julia's name isn't on the flight manifest.

The captain (Sean Bean) wants to be helpful but begins to wonder if Kyle has made up her story just to agitate the other 400 passengers, or because she's delusional as the result of her husband's death. Fearing for the safety of his passengers he orders the armed air marshal (Peter Sarsgaard) to keep her in her seat where she's unable to make a disturbance.

But she finds a way to get free and as a result of her designing the plane, searching the vessel isn't limited to the walkways. Evading the marshal Kyle eventually gets into the belly of the plane, searching through luggage and able to mess with the electrical mainframe in order to manipulate the situation she is trying to figure out how to control when an entire plane believes she's crazy.

The performances drive the film. Foster is always great, and resurrects her "Contact" role as the character who has to prove to a world of skeptics that she isn't crazy. It's not an easy task when the lead skeptic in this movie is played by Hollywood's best skeptic, Peter Sarsgaard, who earned that right as Chuck Lane in "Shattered Glass."

I am hesitant to say anything more about the movie. The only thing you should know prior to seeing "Flightplan" is that it's worth seeing, and if you liked Red Eye I can highly recommend this one.

Like said comparison, the conclusion is a tad bit preposterous. But movies like this only have to be entertaining, and "Flightplan" is. Unexpected bouts of turbulence rock the plane which breaks the cliché of airplane movies where the ride is always unreasonably smooth unless the focus of the scene is the condition of the plane at 40,000 feet. Schwentke makes sure we understand we're watching characters on a plane, not actors on a soundstage.

I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot more from this guy in the near future.

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