Director: Jean-François Richet
Writers: Charles Cumming (screenplay and story by), J.P. Davis (screenplay by)
Starring: Gerard Butler, Mike Colter, Tony Goldwyn
Runtime: 107 mins
MPAA Rating: R
It is certainly possible for a vehicle-based action film to transcend a simplistic title. For example, Speed did so in 1994. However, a lazy title is more often than signifies holistic lazy filmmaking. A release date in January, the notorious studio dumping grounds month, did little to counter my low expectations. Even still, I proceeded undaunted to see Gerard Butler shoot people in Plane.
When Trailblazer Airlines routes commercial pilot Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler) through a turbulent storm on an international flight over the Pacific, critical damage to the aircraft forces a crash landing in the Philippines. Unfortunately, the island that greets Brodie and his crew and passengers is not controlled by the Filipino government complicating an external rescue. Additionally, Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter), in transit to face murder charges, is now unaccompanied after the death of his custodian during the plane’s hazardous descent. Brodie, a former Royal Air Force pilot, and Louis, a man with an apparent tactical skill set, forge a necessary alliance of thin trust in order to combat a numerous and ruthless rebel militia who eagerly seek fresh political hostages. Will Brodie be able to protect everyone and find a path to rescue?
Everything about this film is simple: plot, characters, script, etc. Simple does not mean poorly made. In fact, a simple setup is often a perfect blank canvas for a creative action director. Brodie is a likable masculine hero caught up in a life-or-death situation while trying to finish a job so he can spend time with his daughter. At every stage of the story, his motivations come from outside of himself whether it be the desire to protect his passengers and crew or to fulfill the promise he made to his daughter, and, thus, he is an easy protagonist to support. Louis is the mysterious loaner with a checkered past who you cheer on for making the right moral choice in the moment. These two archetypes work well together and need little development, leaving room for plenty of action film dynamics to take center stage. On the other side of that action are sadistic rebel terrorists with a stern imposing leader feared by his captives and subordinates alike. Though not terribly original, they are functional villains. Unfortunately, the film wastes the opportunity to maximize the entertainment factor of this premise.
The chaos of the turbulent plane descent is exciting and tense, and the movie stays engaging transitioning into the dangerous situation of island survival and rescue. In particular, the first fight scene where Brodie physically struggles one-on-one with a rebel is a memorable one-take sequence. However, Plane cannot sustain this standard. Unfortunately, the movie checks its watch after the first two acts and starts moving double time to wrap things up as quickly as possible. A lot of shooting occurs in a short amount of runtime. Satisfying closure does not occur as everything rushes past far too quickly and violently. There are no twists and turns nor even ebbs and flows to the action in the third act; everything just blasts past without style or creativity, hurtling towards the end credits. An admittedly intriguing and intense build-up comes crumbling down to a limp, unexciting, and forgettable conclusion.
The base elements for a svelte yet memorable action film exist in Plane, but not enough care was put into the overall composition. Subpar acting abounds, and the script, though not excessively cheesy, does not elevate the material. If the story builds to a more satisfying conclusion, it might have more staying power. Consequently, this movie is destined to be lost in the annals of B-action movies.
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