Pop Culture

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Plane

Title: uh...

Describe This Movie In One Airplane! Quote:
STEVE MCCROSKEY: Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Airplane crash lands in Philippines, but Manny Pacquiao isn't around to save them.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 3 Sullys out of 5.
Tagline: "Survive together or die alone."

Better Tagline: "Sugar, we're goin' down swinging."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: It was supposed to be a routine New Year's Eve flight for Trailblazer 119, but a nasty thunderstorm forces pilot Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler) into an emergency landing on a Philippine island. [That's good! ]The island is controlled by separatist militias. [That's bad!] One of the plane's passengers, Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter), has some skills that might be useful. [That's good!] He's also a prisoner being extradited to Canada for murder. That's ... actually, it turns out to be not so bad after all.
"Critical" Analysis: Plane is the kind of movie we don't see much these days: a self-contained actioner with plenty of gratuitous violence, satisfying comeuppances, and surprisingly gripping airplane sequences. Director Jean-Fran├žois Richet (best(?) known for 2005's Assault on Precinct 13 remake) keeps the throttle down for a spare 107 minutes in an era where such a story would usually be stretched out for an eight-episode miniseries.

And if you're reading that synopsis and thinking, "Huh, that sounds a lot like the plot of Pitch Black," award yourself 25,000 frequent flyer miles. The trope of the mysterious/badass prisoner is a long and storied one, even in cases where it's not spoiled by the freaking movie poster.

Yet somehow, it works. Richet wisely splits to action between his two leads, letting Butler (mercifully allowed to keep his Scottish accent) handle the plane heroics, then shifting to Colter for the third act when combat tactics are required.

The movie mostly recalls the '80s/'90s action epics of yore, when beefy heroes dealt out death with gory abandon (the .50 caliber kills here are the best onscreen since Rambo) and extricated themselves from danger in ways so ridiculously improbable you can't do much besides throw common sense out the window and reach for the Raisinets.

Although trying to convince us this flight had only 14 passengers on it veers pretty close to fantasy genre territory.
click to enlarge
"Wait until they find out all we have to eat is that crappy snack mix."
Like him or not, Butler is a reliable presence. Maybe he's never again hit the box office heights of 300, and maybe he has more Razzie nominations than anything else, but he's been pretty constantly in theaters for the last 15 years. More significant, he's somehow avoided the massive IPs that have sucked in just about everyone else in Hollywood.

Butler's played: romantic foil to Jennifer Aniston and Katherine Heigl, mercenary scumbag, and the  Egyptian god Set, but never a superhero/villain. The "sort of" exception being his ... Has Fallen franchise, movies which none other than Iron Man himself has said we need more of.

Agree with the sentiment or not, Butler's working man's approach to filmmaking allows him to sell something as basic as Plane, whether he's sharing the screen with Colter, or dead sticking an airliner across the South China Sea. So if you can, forget the cartoony villains and barely there characters.

Because sometimes movies can just be ... there, and looking at the sequels, remakes, and video game/toy adaptations coming down the pike in 2023, we might be missing stuff like Plane when all is said and done.

Plane is in theaters today.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar