Newest Review: ... lead to which we have become so accustomed and never really turns to the hysterical-style of acting that lesser actresses may have resorted... more
Leaving On A Jet Plane (Film Only Review)
Member Name: Mauri
Date: 27/09/06, updated on 29/06/09 (267 review reads)
Advantages: Good Central performance, imaginative direction
Before I start let me confess that I love Jodie Foster (as an actress of course) so any film featuring her doesn't get a totally unbiased review from me. Throughout her career she has shown she is an adaptable and versatile actress who can convince in a variety of roles. She often excels at playing strong and yet vulnerable female characters as she has proved in such films as 'Panic Room' (2002), 'Silence of the Lamb's (1991) 'Little Man Tate' (1991) and 'The Accused'(1988).
Aviation engineer Kyle Pratt has recently lost her husband in tragic circumstances when he fell to his death from the roof of their apartment building in Berlin, it's not clear if this was an accident or suicide. Kyle decides to take her husbands body home to the US for burial and she embarks on the long flight home coincidentally on a plane she helped to design. With Kyle is her seven-year-old daughter Julia a quiet child obviously deeply affected by her father's death needing constant comforting and protection from her mother. A few hours in to the flight Kyle wakes up to find that her daughter is missing. She begins looking for her but when she fails to find her she informs the flight crew. At first the crew seem sympathetic towards Kyle suggesting that on a plane a little child could not have gone far but it soon turns out that Julia doesn't appear on the flightplan and that none of the passengers or crew remember her boarding the plane. The child's bag and her boarding pass also seem to have mysteriously 'disappeared'. Further revelations begin to make the crew and captain doubt Kyle's story and her state of mind.
Are the crew lying? Is there is sinister conspiracy against Kyle going on? Is she delusional and was her daughter never on the plane? Are some of the sinister looking passengers involved?
'Flightplan' turns out to be a tense if not too clever thriller that benefits from its claustrophobic location. German director Robert Schwentke a relative newcomer to film direction sets up the story well in the early scenes leading up to the flight. There are a series of flashbacks all filmed in dark eerie locations where Kyle sees her dead husband in the snowy courtyard where he fell. We get a clear sense of Kyle struggling to cope with the sudden loss of her husband but the surreal nature of the scenes also hints at something else possibly supernatural is going on. Kyle is under great stress and her sanity is under threat, this is clearly illustrated when she panics as she loses sight of the daughter in the busy airport waiting hall but it is also emphasised that people around her seem oblivious to this.
Once the action transfers to the aeroplane the feeling of unreality continues as Kyle and Julia seem to be closeted away from the rest of the people on board. The plane is not you standard charter plane but a brand new luxury design with multiple floors, vast cargo space and a huge seating capacity big enough to make looking for someone interesting but still enclosed enough to make it feel increasingly claustrophobic as the tension builds and Kyle gets more desperate.
The director adds much to the atmosphere by the use of the camera as it seems to stalk Foster; a couple of scenes when it circles around Kyle with increasing speed gives the viewer a vivid sense of panic that is building up in the character.
It is interesting to note how the movie landscape has changed since 9/11, setting the action on a plane and including a few suspicious looking middle eastern passengers immediately increases the tension. The spectre of 9/11 also affect the working of the plot by having a air marshal, introduced after the terrorist attacks on board, a character which becomes more and more pivotal as the story progresses.
I would say that overall the film works reasonably well. Rather like 'The Panic Room' the story relies on a strong central character, a desperate mother trying to protect her child. Foster is more than up to the task and her emotionally charged performance holds the film together and more importantly allows you to gloss over the gaping chasms in the plot.
This is basically a tour de force by Foster with everyone else including some quite big names like Sean Bean and Greta Scacchi being very much in the background. The only other performance of note in the film is that of Peter Sarsgaard who swapped his drug peddling character in 'Garden State' to become the representative of law and order as Air Marshal Carson.
Flightplan has been described as a Hitchcokian thriller and it certainly bears the hallmarks of the 'master of suspense'. The storyline is not straightforward infact it couldn't get much more convoluted. The main characters is unsure of her actions and is dogged by a sense of paranoia, through the use of the camera the audience feels like the are spying on the action rather than simply watching, of course there has to be set piece ending and the heroine is a blonde! All the Hitchcock boxes seemed to be ticked and yet I would resist from taking the comparison too far.
As a fan of Hitchcock I'd say there is a lot to recommend this film, a very good central performance, great camera work and an interesting setting which allows the film to maintain its tension and excitement so why wasn't it as accomplished as some classic thrillers of the past?
Well the simple truth is that the story wasn't good enough. The premise of the film rested on the uncertainty the audience feels towards Kyle and her predicament, we are never meant to be sure of what is going on and this uncertainty along with a few well placed plot twists made the first hour of the film intriguing. However when you set up an audience in this way you have to make sure you deliver a big finish otherwise the tension that builds up dissipates and the film fizzles out. Whilst not wanting to be too harsh the ending was in my mind a little predictable if totally implausible and a slight let down despite the action packed final few scenes.
At the start this film felt dark and full of foreboding more reminiscent of a Ingmar Bergman classic than a run of the mill Hollywood action thriller, unfortunately early promise is not fully maintained and by the end we are just left with an action thriller, a fairly good one mind you. It is true that Flightplan could've been better, a missed opportunity but it is still worth a viewing just for Foster's central performance and Robert Schwentke imaginative direction.
CAST, INFO AND TECHNICAL BITS
Jodie Foster .... Kyle Pratt
Peter Sarsgaard .... Carson
Kate Beahan .... Stephanie
Erika Christensen .... Fiona
Jana Kolesarova .... Claudia
Marlene Lawston .... Julia
Sean Bean .... Captain Rich
Greta Scacchi .... Therapist
Directed by Robert Schwentke, written by Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray.
Flightplan is 98mins long and is rated 12 (UK) for some violence and moderately adult themes, which I would say is just about right.
Recommended (with a few reservations).
© Mauri 2006
Summary: A good but not great thriller