Plane Review: Thriller Takes Wrong Flight Pattern
By Daniel Rester
Plane has perhaps the laziest movie title since Dog last year. That film did indeed have a dog, and Channing Tatum. And this film does indeed have a plane, and Gerard Butler.
Despite the obvious title and packaging, however, I wouldn’t say Plane is exactly what it promises from the trailers. Those make it seem like Butler (as Scottish pilot Brodie Torrance) and Mike Colter (as a passenger being extradited, Louis Gaspare) are going to do a whole lot of killing and ass-kicking on their way to saving passengers from terrorists after their plane crashes on an island. But they only really do a little of that here between the big crash at the beginning and the inevitable escape at the end.
With its simple setup and certain ingredients, Plane echoes ’90s action flicks. But instead of leaning fully into the cheese and absurdity and delivering a lot of set pieces, the film takes itself too seriously and takes forever to gain momentum after the initial crash. The passengers aren’t even taken hostage by the pirates/terrorists until an hour into the film. Instead, bland subplots dominate much of the second act and distract from the main plot on the island. These include cutting away to the airline headquarters where Tony Goldwyn plays a guy hatching a rescue plan and showing Torrance’s daughter worrying about him.
When the film decides to focus on Torrance and Gaspare, they’re not doing much other than trying to get calls out for help at an old building. They only take down a couple of baddies before the climax and they face no environmental hurdles on the island on their way to find the passengers. The two men travel on the island – called Jolo – as if they’ve been there before, so the setting provides no air of mystery.
Colter should have the most interesting character as Gaspare but he is given little to do other than look sweaty and intimidating. I kept waiting for some character-building conversations between him and Torrance, but their talks are mostly just a line here and there. It is cool to see Butler as more of an everyman hero as a pilot, and he even cries facing some of the situations. His role at least provides a slight shade to his typical muscle-and-growl roles.
The plane crash scene itself is exciting despite having some terrible CGI at moments. The last twenty minutes are where Plane mostly comes alive though as director Jean-Francois Richet finally lets loose with the thrills promised by the trailers. Snipers make terrorist bodies go flying and Butler does his best Clint Eastwood stare before destroying a guy with a plane wheel. The climax provides the kind of genre filmmaking Richet did well with Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) and Blood Father (2016) and made me wish the rest of Plane was as good.
Plane isn’t awful. It’s just a mediocre January action flick. The acting is fine throughout and the first and third acts have some exciting moments staged by Richet. The middle section is dull though. The film isn’t smart enough to be as serious as it wants to be but it also isn’t dumb enough with its action and characters to be so bad it’s good. Plane is as plain and forgettable as its title.
My Grade: 5.5/10 (letter grade equivalent: C+)
Running Time: 1 hours and 47 minutes
Plane released in theaters on January 13th, 2023.