Flightplan (2005) / Thriller-Action

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence and language
Running Time: 93 min.

Cast: Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean, Kate Beahan, Erika Christensen, Marlene Lawston, Judith Scott, Michael Irby, Assaf Cohen, Greta Scacchi
Director: Robert Schwentke
Screenplay: Peter Dowling, Billy Ray
Review published September 29, 2005

The Lady Vanishes meets Bunny Lake is Missing, except without the sure hands of Alfred Hitchcock or Otto Preminger at the helm.  Unlike those films, which actually had more than trickery up their sleeves, Flightplan is a pure thriller, delivering only thrills, chills and a little mystery to keep our attention.  As such, your liking for the film may come down to how interesting you find the modest twists and turns in the story.  Savvy thriller viewers should have no trouble staying ahead of the curve here, as the film falls into predictable patterns, with obvious red herrings that do little to throw us off as the teaser film reaches an increasingly implausible revelation and preposterous conclusion.

Jodie Foster (Panic Room, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys) plays Kyle Pratt, a plane designer that has just suffered the tragic loss of her husband and is traveling from Germany back to the US for his burial with their six-year-old daughter Julia in tow.  It just so happens, Kyle is flying back on a plane she helped design, a massive commercial jet that has all of the latest amenities one could ever want in a plane.  Apparently, it is so large that a child can get lost in it, and that's just what happens when Kyle awakens from a three hour nap and finds Julia nowhere to be found.  She begs and pleads for the captain and crew to assist her, but as they dig deeper into the matter, they become more and more certain that Kyle may never have come aboard with her daughter and needs psychiatric treatment.  Kyle doesn't give up, leading to escalating tensions among the crew and passengers.

Foster's tense performance, reminiscent of the successful turn she nailed in Panic Room, keeps the attention level high most of the way, although perhaps she is too smart for her role here.  True, she is playing an aviation engineer, which are usually not dummies, but this angle seems far more of a contrivance than a reality, as she does some very foolish things throughout, especially as key pieces to the puzzle that seem obvious to us are repeatedly overlooked for purposes of dramatic convenience. 

Not that anyone could ever really buy what screenwriters Peter Dowling and Billy Ray (Suspect Zero, Shattered Glass) offer up as the reason behind the young girl's supposed disappearance, as there are so many holes in the plot that it is a wonder the plane didn't depressurize.  As all of the cards are revealed, all hopes of retaining the credibility of the very effective build-up are dashed, and without the necessary suspension of disbelief required, this vehicle crashes and burns before finally fading to black with an anti-climactic epilogue.

Flightplan offers much promise from Foster's involvement and a stylish look, but just becomes too turbulent to make the transition from mystery to thriller in seamless fashion.  Perhaps I shouldn't use so many air travel clichés in my review, but I feel it's only appropriate for me to do so in a film that is nothing but clichés from beginning to end.  For the most casual of viewers, there might be enough tension in the first half of the movie to justify a rental, but frequent flyers need not cash in their miles for what ends up being such pedestrian fare.

Qwipster's rating:

©2005 Vince Leo