Flightplan (2005) – movie review

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Movie Review by Vivienne Messenger

Starring: Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean, Erika Christensen
Director: Robert Schwentke

Jodie Foster headlines FLIGHTPLAN, a gripping, psychological thriller played out mid-flight in the confines of a plane on an international transatlantic flight. Jodie Foster really excels in roles where the odds are stacked against her. As in PANIC ROOM she is fighting to survive in a completely plausible scenario that anyone could end up having to face. Here she plays Kyle Pratt, the mother of a young daughter, Julia (Marlene Lawston), who has gone missing from the seat beside her after she dozed off, yet no one can recall seeing her daughter! Her commanding performance conveying this kind of personal stress drives the movie forward – as panic tightens its grip on her when the child is nowhere to be found, so the fear and pace of unfolding events mirror the increasing urgency of this frightening and very real situation.

How does Kyle Pratt handle the situation and why the doubt that her daughter even came aboard?

Against her:
Her daughter’s boarding pass has vanished – it was in her pocket but is no longer there.
Her daughter’s name is not on the passenger boarding list.
She was first on and already seated when the other passengers close by came on board.
None of the (adult) passengers in her immediate vicinity can recall seeing her with a young girl except two youngsters in the seats in front who are hushed up and told not to get involved.
Neither the flight attendants (played by Erika Christensen and Kate Beahan) nor an air marshal Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard) seated close by can remember seeing her daughter beside her.

For her:
She knows the new flight procedures and protocols that have been brought in post 9/11.
She also has an incredible single-minded determination and temerity that she definitely brought the child on board which never wavers.
As a propulsion engineer she knows the layout of this new, recently designed plane that will prove invaluable.

The pilot Captain Rich (Sean Bean) is sceptical but tries to calm Mrs Pratt down and agrees at Kyle’s insistence to make further checks of his own. It then comes to light that her husband died a few days earlier so it’s understandable that she would be under tremendous stress, and possibly taking medication! Perhaps she was imagining everything… That she didn’t really bring her daughter with her at all…

What unfolds is an infectious drama and riveting thriller. Foster brilliantly conveys the increasing desperation her character feels as she is backed into a corner. Her panic causes a ripple effect among the other passengers who are sucked in as well and begin to feel and feed of her fear causing consternation. Then there are the more sinister implications that start to surface as the plot thickens.

But there are some loopholes in the plot that stare you in the face and are a little irritating. Why wasn’t CCTV footage checked from the airport and departure lounge to corroborate her insistence that she had brought her daughter on board? Towards the climax why did she give the pilot the gun she was holding? Also the ending seemed a bit of an anticlimax and rushed after all the build up to it (unless that’s just my perception)?

However these are just minor niggles. This is a wonderfully entertaining and challenging film. Primal fear and parental instinct are the impulsive defence reactions played out to perfection here by Jodie Foster. FLIGHTPLAN will make you pause for thought afterwards as to how you would react in a terrifyingly desperate situation – probably not as well as Kyle Pratt but one lives in hope!

5 out of 6 stars