There are some vessels that lend themselves to being the backdrop for high-speed, intense action sequences. Skyscrapers, sports cars, and speed boats just to name a few. Then there is also the added danger of a vessel that soars through the sky and can become a death trap if someone discharges a firearm. Airplanes have always been a popular choice for action films...Air Force One, Con Air, Snakes On A Plane, etc. have proven that the flying metal tubes have a level of danger not seen elsewhere in movies. As we head into a new year of films, one of the first offerings is an action film that solidifies that hypothesis. Simply titled Plane, Lionsgate brings it to theaters this week.
Captain Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler; 300) is looking forward to spending New Year's Eve in Hawaii with his college-aged daughter. However, first, he must pilot a plane out of Singapore with fourteen passengers aboard, including a convicted killer (Mike Colter, Luke Cage) who is being extradited to serve his sentence. Before take-off, Torrance is informed there is bad weather ahead but that it should move inland before the plane winds up in that airspace. When Torrance suggests a slight delay, The air traffic controller brushes off his suggestion and clears them for take off.
Not too long into the flight though, the plane heads into the storm and losses power when it is struck by lightning. Without radar, comms, and navigation they are forced to land before they crash. Luckily, after clearing the cloud bank Torrance finds land and looks for a clearing to touch down. Once on the ground, the co-pilot, Dele (Yoson An; Mulan) informs Torrance that he believes they may have landed on Jolo, an island near the Philippines inhabited by lawless militia. Suddenly, trying to communicate with his employer and letting someone know where they are, has become much more urgent.
Butler is no stranger to action roles and Captain Torrance is much of what we have come to expect from him. With his subtle Scottish brogue, he commands attention from the passengers, the enemy, and most importantly, the audience. In contrast, Colter spends the first half of the film mainly silent and it works for his character. He observes while wearing a scowl and trying to burn holes through everyone with his eyes only. The rest of the cast is ok with the exception of Tony Goldwyn (Scandal) who offers the same type of presence and authority he had playing the President of the United States on the television series Scandal.
Even though Plane had a $50 million budget, there are very obvious flaws throughout. Most notable are the special effects. After take-off, the camera shows Torrance looking out at the lights over the dark landscape, and it is extremely obvious the background was 100% green screen. It felt as if we were watching a college sophomore film course project.
The script also needed revision and director Jean-François Richet (Blood Father) might have spent a little more time creating backstories and on character development. There were so many questions after the movie ended that were left unanswered. What were the circumstances behind the killer's conviction? How did Jolo become so hostile? What was the story about Torrance's wife? etc.
Generally, one doesn't expect much from an action movie, especially during the period in the movie release calendar known as "January Junk" (a.k.a where bad films go to die) but for an action feature with some "issues", it wasn't half bad. It was entertaining, the fight sequences were decent and there were laughs (both intentional and unintentional) peppered through the movie.
During one of the slowest months for new movie releases, Plane, like its name, is bland, somewhat generic, and doesn't have high production value. However, if you are tired of the horror or sci-fi offerings currently in theaters, you could do worse than Plane.