At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Flightplan “05”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Thriller/ Stars: Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean, Kate Beahan, Matt Bomer, Amanda Brooks, Jesse Burch, Erika Christensen, Assaf Cohen, John Benjamin Hickey/Runtime: 98 minutes

Greetings ladies and gentlemen this is your captain for this review speaking. You know I would just like to start it off by saying that even though there really is very few things as engaging or as entertaining as a rivetingly great mystery, it saddens me just a little bit to say that the mystery that is presented to each and every one of us in the movie Flightplan is just one of those that will have to settle for being good; no more and no less. Indeed this modern-day take on the kind of story that Hitchcock did so brilliantly at one time is one that possesses themes of misdirection, deceit, lies, befuddlement, and perhaps worst of all, humanity’s casualness towards even the most crystal clear of misdeeds. Yet despite being constructed around a fantastic concept this film still suffers due to the narrative being quite obvious as to where it plans on going. However, to this movie’s credit, the film does manage to wring quite a decent amount of suspense and thrills, due to several intriguing performances from Foster, Bean, and Sarsgaard, out of what is otherwise a run of the mill and flatter than what people used to think the Earth was narrative.

The plot is as follows: Flightplan tells the story of a woman by the name of Kyle Pratt who is in a state of mourning since she recently and quite tragically lost her husband to what appears to be him falling off a roof. Thus as the film opens, we see that she is engaged in the act of taking his body back to the United States from Germany courtesy of a flight across the Atlantic. Joining her on this trip is her little girl named Julia who is also grieving albeit in a manner that has resulted in her becoming completely terrified of the world around her. However what was supposed to be a routine flight turns into a nightmare when Kyle wakes up from a nap only to discover her daughter isn’t there. However when an initial search of everywhere that could be accessed by the passengers turns up with nada, Kyle begins to worry and quickly starts to go from an extremely worried parent into a high-level flight risk to the point that she soon finds herself being shadowed by a on-board Air Marshal as well as earning the official worry of the pilot. Yet even though everyone on board believes her to be more than a little bit loopy, especially when it’s discovered that no record of her daughter ever boarding the flight to begin with seemingly can be found, Kyle is insistent about her daughter being on board and continues the search regardless of what she may discover. Thus by doing so she finds herself entering a labyrinth of a mystery that is the length and width of a commercial jet and a solution that has some truly sinister implications….

Now this film may not be the most unique mystery out there, but it still manages to prove an entertaining ride to some extent and despite the fact that the mystery isn’t that hard to figure out. Indeed this film’s protagonists, antagonists, and everyone else who function either as the mandatory red herring or as the group of witnesses who, just by being there, are able to discreetly showcase humanity’s undying ability to not give a care in the world about anything that doesn’t happen right there in front of them. The icing on the cake though has to be the fact that this is a movie which manages to not really ever steer away from conventionality. Heck the fact that this film possesses a PG-13 rating pretty much means that this film will be held to the standard of playing things with caution, and by the conclusion, taking both the easiest as well as the most positive ways to end this movie. I mean where the heck is the risk or, for that matter, this film’s sense of novelty?

I mean I hate to rant about this, but there is a very distinct reason why The Empire Strikes Back is seen not only as the best Star Wars film, but also a terrific movie in and out of itself. That reason is because this is a film which actually had the guts to, spoiler alert, let the good guys lose. Indeed I bring this up because I feel that one of the biggest issues that Hollywood has always had is that they are afraid of giving the audience any kind of resolution where things don’t end happily or at least somewhat upbeat. Now I get it: not everyone enjoys a sad or depressing ending to a film, but nevertheless I just honestly feel that there really need to be more conclusions to movies like that seen in the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers that honestly have no qualms going up against the typical Hollywood-style ending. Having concluded that particular rant, I guess the main quarrel I have with films like Flightplan is that they are so obvious. Indeed any individual who has witnessed their fair amount of cinematic outings will know right where this one intends to go from the word….well go even if, to this film’s credit, it does manage to both generate an astonishing level of suspense as well as conjure up a very unnerving and pitch-black atmosphere.

Now even though this film is absolutely predictable, granted yes it may take a few curves in the road on its way to the end, but where the film wants to end is a location that is always in mind, it still does manage to be quite the engaging and worthy picture. Indeed in many ways a homage or tribute to a film by Alfred Hitchcock known as The Lady Vanishes, this film, despite being slicker, but not exactly better, still manages to work due to the subtler details that really help to neutralize the narrative’s lackluster vibes. For starters the director does a wonderful job in his utilization of his main set, a giant passenger jet that succeeds in giving off the impression that it is both constricted as well as roomy at the same time thus giving the director an ingenious tool to utilize that gives the ability to easily hide our heroine’s daughter somewhere in it while also making the landscape one that is seemingly unescapable, very constricted, and extremely clinical. Indeed this trinity of elements all work together brilliantly in aiding the narrative’s very closed-in vibe which then allows for suspense to climb thus aiding both this film’s narrative and its concepts quite wonderfully. Also the director does a wonderful job at utilizing shadows as well as a very chilly, iron-gray, and departed-style of coloring the film in his favor towards adding to the vibes of deceit, melancholy, and anxiety that really hangs over the narrative like a solitary rain cloud on a sunny day.

It is also worth noting that this film’s trio of top-billed performers that is to say Miss Jodie Foster and Mr.’s Sean Bean and Peter Sarsgaard all do wonderful work despite both the cliché conclusion to the film as well as the fact that Sarsgaard looks and sounds as if he literally is sleeping through his role in this, Bean always looks torn between exasperation and a full-blown aneurysm at the antics going on onboard his airplane, and Foster delivering a typically fine performance albeit with the extra caveat of literally raising hell with anyone and everyone she comes in contact with on board the plane (yikes!). Finally we also get absolutely wonderful work from the late yet truly gifted composer James Horner who manages to contribute his gifts with music to this film’s score. Indeed his piano motif may sound like something you would hear in an Alfred Hitchcock film, but given how this is supposed to be in many ways a modern updating of a Hitchcock film known as The Lady Vanishes, I would definitely say that The Master himself would be impressed and perhaps even moved by the homage found in this film’s musical accompaniment.

All in all is Flightplan the worst movie ever made? Not even close. By the same token however is it the best movie that could have been made given the genre of film, what it’s about, and with the trio of dependable actors at the helm that it does? Again I think it is safe to say that I don’t think so. Thus I think what I can say for certain is that if you’re looking for a good but not great movie that has a decent mystery and a trio of great performances at the helm that also clocks in at an easy to sit through at 98 minutes then this is for you. Indeed Flightplan may not be first class, but sometimes you can’t go wrong when the economy seating is just as comfortable. On a scale of 1-5 I give Flightplan “05” a solid 3 out of 5.