Film Reviews

FLIGHTPLAN

By • Sep 23rd, 2005 •

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QUOTE: Foster plays the mother of all mothers.

Jodie Foster doesn’t make as many movies as her colleagues but when she does you can expect an intelligent screenplay and real acting. After watching everyday people “acting” on reality shows and teenage actresses playing scientists and being fed their lines, I am now surprised to see real acting. I don’t know if it was special effects or really good makeup, but when Foster cried, the tip of her nose got red.

This is the first movie that actually shows the panic and fury of a mother losing her child. The mothers in RANSOM, MAN ON FIRE, and even THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN were all quietly weeping in the corner. I would not have stopped screaming. I would have behaved just like Jodie Foster’s character (or Natalee Holloway’s angry mother).

This is a very smart screenplay: Listen carefully and you are cleverly let in on the twist. Or, at least I caught it.

Movies taking place on airplanes are tough: Even the recent RED EYE moved off the plane. But FLIGHTPLAN’s set is a cavernous 2-level plane. It begins with an ominous tone that sets the tenor of the movie. This is a terrific movie with suspense and real fear: Who actually trusts the science behind airplanes?

By the way, I’ve been on 18-hour flights: This is the cleanest plane I have ever seen. The passengers are quiet and very neat. No one throws food, garbage, magazines, or personal items on the plane floor. This is really a minor question: Does German director Robert Schwentke cross the Atlantic by ship?

The movie starts in a blizzard. Grieving Kyle Pratt (Foster) and her six-year old daughter Julie (Marlene Lawson) are leaving Germany. Kyle’s husband just died and she is bringing his body back to the U.S. on a brand new plane she helped design. They are the first on the plane and Julie asks to keep her boarding pass. (The one flaw in the taut thriller.) After a nap, Kyle wakes up to find her daughter missing. No one has seen Julie. There is plenty of psychological drama brewed up with the intelligence of Kyle and, most importantly, the fierce love of motherhood.

Kyle’s hysteria causes Airline Captain Rich (Sean Bean) and Air Marshal Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard), and even flight attendants (Erika Christensen and Kate Beahab) to question Kyle’s mental state. But Kyle knows the plane’s layout and she demands a thorough search of the entire plane. Of course they accommodate her demand for a search, but when Kyle starts disrupting the plane, passengers, and smooth flight, all hell breaks loose. She is told her daughter never boarded the plane. Her daughter died with her husband. She is handcuffed by Carson. Refusing to stay put, Kyle freaks out.

Pater A. Dowling and Billy Ray’s screenplay is so intelligent and emotionally compelling that is works brilliantly. Foster is perfect: She is the appropriate age and uses her intelligent face as an asset. Foster actually appears to be thinking moment to moment.

Director Schwentke has a tough European sensibility. FLIGHTPLAN should appeal especially to Americans: We are now terrified of being trapped in a flying tube of metal without any resources to do anything: We do not even have nail clippers! But we do have ballpoint pens! After passing through 3 rows of security, being searched, and taking off jackets, hats and shoes, by the time you board you are totally stripped of any personal power. But not Kyle: She is the mother of all mothers.

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