The Barenaked Archives – Flightplan

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies.

The Barenaked Archives are reviews that I did for two previous websites. Sadly, they are both gone, so this is now the only place online you can see these old columns.

Flightplan posterMovies that take place in confined places have suspense built in. There’s nowhere to go and not many places to search should somebody go missing. And when a movie takes place inside an airplane, there’s the added bonus of being thousands of feet in the air, which really narrows down escape routes. Unless you’ve got a parachute, nobody’s going anywhere.

Flightplan starts out as a really good thriller. Nothing to be writing home about, but solid enough that you’ll find yourself doubting Jodie Foster’s sanity while she searches for a daughter that may not be on the plane. However, an early reveal of a crucial plot point ruins the suspense of the third act and ultimately drags the movie down.

Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) and her young daughter Julia are on a transatlantic flight from Berlin to New York after the unexpected death of Kyle’s husband. In midair, though, Julia disappears without a trace, and it soon becomes possible that the little girl never got on the plane at all. Can Kyle find her daughter and prove her sanity? Or is she really losing her mind?

This movie actually starts out well, and it’s more than just Panic Room in an airplane, as so many critics are calling it. The beginning is disjointed and confusing, so that you’re not sure if what you’re seeing is a flashback, a dream, or a hallucination. It calls Kyle’s state of mind into question, especially with the traumatic death of her husband.

Jodie Foster does very well as a woman who’s just gone through a horrible event and is trying desperately to keep up a strong face for her daughter, the only thing she has left. Her performance is one of the only reasons to see this movie, as it remains strong throughout. Peter Sarsgaard is good, as always, but his character here is eerily similar to another movie he was in this year. And, for me, it’s always nice to see Sean Bean in a movie. Good guy, bad buy, it doesn’t matter. He’s just great.

Sadly, once you get away from the acting and the confined setting (always a good choice for a thriller), the story really isn’t that great. With thrillers, it’s best not to know too much going in, but the trailers provide you with more than was necessary. And though a child disappearing without any trace whatsoever is an excellent hook, the problem you run into is how to have her disappear. Either somebody hatched an outrageously elaborate kidnapping plan, the child never existed and main character is not sane, or there’s some supernatural explanation. That’s not to say it can’t be pulled off, but it’s tricky.

The big problem is that they reveal the bad guy too early, and then have the inevitable “discussion of the plan,” which is just to make sure the audience knows exactly what’s going on. Sadly, this also really knocks the suspense down, as now you know exactly whether or not Kyle is sane, and that was one of the big questions in the movie.

Flightplan starts out good, takes a nosedive, and then ends up in the “okay” section. As far as thrillers go you could do worse, but there’s no real reason to be rushing out to see it.

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