Cinema Dispatch: Plane

Plane and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate

Directed by Jean-François Richet

Gerard Butler and I have something of an understanding; albeit one that’s completely one-sided.  As long as he doesn’t make anything as truly detestable as London Has Fallen again, I’ll continue to hold him up as one of our best B-Movie action stars.  Shouldn’t be too hard as being better than London Has Fallen is a very low bar to clear, and I’ve enjoyed quite a few of his post-2016 outings.  Will his latest outing, which looks to be as simple and straightforward as its title, prove to be another solid entry in his shining career, or will he finally sap away whatever goodwill I had left for him?  Let’s find out!!

Our pilot for this adventure is Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler) who has the dark background, short temper, and cheeky wisecracks of a typical Hollywood action star, but he’s not in the mood for heroics and just wants to get home to his daughter after this one last flight.  Of course, it wouldn’t be a movie if something bad didn’t happen, and after being brow beaten by corporate to fly through a storm to save some fuel, the plane crashes on an isolated island far from their intended flight plan; leaving it up to our esteemed captain to keep order and find a way to bring everyone back home.  Complicating matters is the presence of a convict Louis (Mike Colter) who was added to the flight at the last minute, not to mention a bunch of whiney passengers who want to live stream their plight, but those concerns are small potatoes compared to the army of angry militias that are barreling towards them with the intent to murder them, ransom them, or both.  Will Brodie be able to keep the peace in such a tense situation while working on a way to contact the outside world?  Can Louis be trusted as an ally in keeping these people safe, and what will he do when the situation puts him closer and closer to being a free man?  Did they at least save the in-flight peanuts, or are those still gonna cost extra?

“You want my help, you gonna have to give me a blanket, three bottles of sparkling water, and every bag of Corn Pops you have left.”     “Anything else?”     “Do you still give away those Junior Wings?  I always wanted some of those.”

Right off the bat, I liked the cut of this movie’s jib!  It has a surprising amount of confidence and trust in its audience that you don’t typically expect from Hollywood fare; even those aiming a lot smaller like this one.  It takes its time to let things simmer; establishing its characters, the situation, and the general tone of the piece which is significantly more grounded than I’d expect from a Gerard Butler vehicle.  It also has one of the better plane-crashing sequences I’ve seen in quite a while, and once again it’s due to how much it trusts the audience to engage with what it’s trying to do.  The effects are great and capture the sheer terror of a plane going down without making the whole sequence feel overblown.  It doesn’t even bash you over the head with bombast music and instead opts for the naturally distressing sounds of harsh weather and straining metal to get across the tension.  All of this is far beyond what I was expecting from a movie that sold itself on Gerard Butler and the word Plane, and it continued to pepper in interesting ideas and story threads throughout; particularly Mike Colter who steals every scene that he’s in and some fun scenes of the airline company trying to figure out how to fix the situation.  Once they get to the Island of Misfit Militias though, things start to turn towards the movie I expected this to be which isn’t poorly executed, but woefully predictable.  It at least manages to keep some of its serious tone as the action is hard-hitting and gruesome, especially the first fight scene that Butler finds himself in, but the more that the scenario is allowed to play out, the more implausible and outright cartoonish it all becomes.  The premise of an island run by generic militia dudes is corny on its face, but the movie also trades in on some very overplayed and downright harmful tropes as the militia comes from the First Blood Part II school of bad guys; namely a bunch of scary brown dudes who barely speak English with an overt propensity towards sadism.  Now I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to use these tropes effectively if you properly contextualize the villains and made them effective threats, but the movie doesn’t even go that far as they are just not engaging as antagonists.  All they have going for them is their brutality as they aren’t particularly charismatic or clever and are easily outclassed and outwitted on an even playing field.  We don’t even know what they’re fighting for beyond the very boring motivation of money, so there aren’t even any ideas worth grappling with as the two sides shoot at each other.  Still, it at least keeps the pace up as Butler and Colter try to find a way to save the hostages, and it has a decently strong final action scene followed by another cool plane sequence that, once again, felt more engaging that the standard action fare that fills out the rest of the movie.

“FEAR THE MIGHTY SUV OF THE PEOPLE’S REVOLUTION!”     “We ran out of gas.”     “SON OF A-”

To say that I was disappointed in this movie is perhaps an overstatement, but it did build me up for a better movie than the one we got.  Action movies like this hold less and less appeal to me as the years go by, but even taking that into account it’s not an especially noteworthy entry in the genre.  Its best elements are what it starts out with, but that confidence begins to waver as it takes the path of least resistance to deliver something competently put together and not much more.  I wouldn’t say it’s a miss for me or that I’d advise you not to see it, but I’d still take a dozen goofy-as-heck Geostorms over reheated Rambo leftovers.

3 out of 5

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