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Sept. 29, 2005

"Flightplan": Too much turbulence

by Ethan Kuhnhenn, Online Managing Editor
It is always amazing how directors can take a ridiculous story line, an unconvincing evil villain and the most clichéd dialogue ever writen and almost redeem the film with some very, very good acting. In "Flightplan," an incredible performance by Jodie Foster as the film's heroine is just enough to save this movie from destroying itself in a horrible, fiery crash.

Jodie Foster stars as an engineer in "Flightplan."
Jodie Foster stars as an engineer in "Flightplan."
Foster stars as Kyle Pratt, an engine designer and recent widow who heads back to the United States with her daughter and husband's body on a plane that she helped design. When Pratt wakes up from a nap on the flight home and finds that her six year old daughter is not sleeping beside her, Foster tries to discover what happened.

The realization that little Julia Pratt, played cutely by Marlene Lawston, is missing is like getting punched in the gut. Losing a child is any parent's worst nightmare and just imagining it happen, which director Robert Schwentke forces the audience to do, triggers an innate maternal instinct. What makes it worse is knowing that little Stephanie's mom is not going to easily find her. Try as hard as she might, Foster is not going to miraculously discover her daughter snuggled up in an overhead compartment bin or wedged under an airplane seat with Teddy; it just would not make a movie.

Foster's early search for her daugher is futile and she becomes increasingly frantic as she scours the aisles of the plane. "Have you seen my daughter?" she asks bewildered passengers over and over again. With each shake of the head Foster loses more and more of her nerve and the audience gets twisted tighter and tighter around Schwentke's little finger.

The story continues as Foster gets more wound up, demands that the captain, played conservatively by Sean Bean, search the entire plane from nose to tail, interrogates an Arabian couple in a scene that plays to post 9-11 fears and manages to capture the attention of the airplane's plain-clothed air marshal. All the while, every single passenger and airline attendant thinks Foster is either a crackpot or out of her mind.

And this fear is really what the movie is about. "Flightplan" is not about the plot or about the action or suspense, it is about the raw emotion of loss and the paranoia that occurs when one realizes that the thing one loves most is missing. Anyone who has ever been separated from their child or little brother or sister knows how the mind plays tricks and knows how fear dictates one's every action. Foster captures this emotion brilliantly and creates all the drama and suspense in this tight little thriller. The craze in Foster's eyes is obvious, and it is hard not to sympathize with her even as all signs point to "crazy."

During the movie it is easy to get caught up in the energy, emotion and pace of the film, but about 15 minutes later, the realization that it really was not worth close to ten bucks to see, seeps in. Jodie Foster's performance is about the only solid aspect of the film, overshadowing some miscasting (Peter Sarsgaard as the villain?) and plot twists that would fit better in the latest Steven Segal flick.

Overall, Schwentke deserves praise for at least making one casting call in a film that is otherwise mediocre.

"Flightplan" (88 minutes, area theatres) is rated PG-13 for violence and some intense plot material.



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  • bah on September 29, 2005 at 7:51 PM
    nice review, kuhnhenn
  • Helen Isitt (View Email) on September 29, 2005 at 10:07 PM
    ***The realization that little Stephanie Pratt, played cutely by Kate Beahan, is missing is like getting punched in the gut. ***

    The child's name is Julia! How can we take anything you say seriously if you cannot even get a basic fact like that right?

    *** demands that the captain, played conservatively by Sean Bean, ***

    A more apt word here would be *understated*, which is Sean's forte.
  • nice diction on September 30, 2005 at 5:18 PM
    cutely?
  • stop snitchin on October 1, 2005 at 1:04 PM
    stop hatin
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