Directed by: Jean-François Richet
Premise: A passenger jet makes an emergency landing on an island in the Philippines. The island is controlled by guerrillas who take the passengers hostage. The captain (Gerard Butler) and a passenger with military experience (Mike Colter) must rescue the hostages.
What Works: Plane recalls the action films of the 1980s especially Chuck Norris vehicles like The Delta Force and Missing in Action. It has a similar straightforward action movie premise and the picture is pleasantly streamlined. However, Plane is made with a grounded sensibility. The action sequences are sufficiently exciting but maintain a realistic tone. Other aspects of the movie are done with a little more thoughtfulness and credibility than we usually get from this kind of action picture. The early portion in which the aircraft loses power midair and makes an emergency landing includes details that make everything credible and thereby more exciting. Likewise, the repairs to the plane are explained in a way that seems plausible (at least to someone with no knowledge of aviation technology). There are also some surprising human moments in Plane. Action films can sometimes have a callous disregard for death but the filmmakers of Plane pause to consider the loss of life and Gerard Butler gets some dramatic moments in which he reacts emotionally. It’s enough to give Butler’s character and the film a touch of humanity which raises the stakes.
What Doesn’t: In addition to channeling the fun and sensibilities of a 1980s action picture, the filmmakers also channel the politics of those films including the racial politics. The conflict plays out between scary and evil Filipino guerrillas and virtuous western characters who are mostly white. The premise of Plane isn’t made up of whole cloth; the Philippine islands are home to guerilla groups that have kidnaped and murdered missionaries, journalists, and tourists. But everything in Plane is taken at face value. There is no complexity to these characters. Virtually everyone is exactly who they initially appear to be. Compare the characters of Plane to those of Speed or Die Hard or The Rock who were much more interesting and had complicated conflicts. Mike Colter plays a criminal with military experience who is being transported back to the United States and becomes invaluable to the rescue. Colter has an interesting screen presence but the film doesn’t do anything with him. He’s the one point of complexity but the character is treated as an afterthought.
Bottom Line: Plane is an adequate action thriller. This is a good January release. The moviemakers knew what they were doing and they’ve created an enjoyable enough action film with a dramatic touch.
Episode: #937 (January 29, 2023)