Does anyone really enjoy flying with the high airfares, worse-than-microwave food and flight attendants who don’t get paid enough to give a damn? Let’s not forget the worst part: all the smelly passengers who the bankrupt airlines cram into every flight. In these post-9/11 days when the scars are just barely healed, movies about planes and flying are sensitive subjects, subjects that Hollywood is set on capitalizing upon. The big hitter of this late summer season is “Flightplan”. Posing as a Hitchcock thriller, “Flightplan” would certainly have good old Alfred rolling in his grave. Jodie Foster (“Contact”) and Peter Sarsgaard (“Kinsey”) act opposite each other in the airborne mystery. Robert Schwentke, whose list of credits is long enough to count on one hand, mans the pilot’s chair as the film’s director.
Your typical thriller should use knowledge the audience has learned about the characters in the film to create suspense. You should be afraid for the person who is talking to the killer without knowing it. A typical mystery plays off of surprise, allowing the audience only the same amount of knowledge that the characters have so they have to figure out the story as the characters do. “Flightplan,” from start to finish, never settles on which of the two kinds of movies it wants to be.
“Flightplan” begins with Kyle (Foster) identifying the body of her recently departed husband. She and her traumatized daughter board a plane bound for New York, where they plan to bury him. Suspiciously, the plane happens to be the fictitious, gigantic 474, which is 747 rearranged. They board the flight and all seems well. Kyle takes her daughter to the back of the empty plane to catch some sleep, when she wakes up her child is gone and after a twenty minute delay, the plot finally gets off the ground. This is also the moment when the numerous holes in the plot begin to show themselves. Aside from the fact that empty seats are a rarity on planes today, amazingly, not a single person on the plane ever recalls seeing the child. The camera shows you every single space on the plane and reveals no child. Thrillers work on their ability to get you to buy into the idea. The more realistic, the better, and “Flightplan” is just not very realistic. The dialogue between Kyle and Carson (Sarsgaard), which is intended to explain character motivation, simply becomes mindless banter similar to when a seven-year-old keeps asking you, “Why? Why? Why?” The social commentary made about the two suspicious-looking Arab guys on the flight is out of place and will make you wish movie theaters gave out complimentary vomit bags. After about an hour of Kyle freaking out and causing plane-wide panic, it is revealed that Carson is actually the evil mastermind who engineered the whole plot and who has hidden Kyle’s daughter in an obscure corner of the plane, which had been previously overlooked. When the boring, uneventful ending finally comes, audience members will feel the same relief one might experience after an actual 10-hour nonstop flight from Berlin to New York.
It is interesting that Jodie Foster agreed to be in this movie. The notoriously picky star only lends her true talent to interesting films. “Flightplan” seems like one of those movies that had all the right components, but a weak script just couldn’t support the rest of the film. Not all the smokehouse almonds and complimentary beverages in the world could make this film enjoyable.