The Philadelphia Inquirer
The line between genius and madness is as slender as a thread, and in "Flightplan" Jodie Foster treads it like a jittery tightrope walker. As Kyle Pratt, a widow whose daughter goes missing on a transatlantic flight, Foster teeters between tunnel vision and delusion.
Foster is always compelling, and her tense performance as an aviation engineer (who conveniently helped design the stylish jumbo jet on which she's a passenger) keeps this claustrophobic thriller - think of it as "Panic Room" at 37,000 feet - airborne.
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But once the matter of whether Kyle's daughter actually exists is resolved, director Robert Schwentke's white-knuckle suspenser loses altitude fast. He doesn't even bother to turn on the "fasten seat belts" sign.
Good premise, though. Schwentke knows how to pile on the angst. Enclosed space. Missing child. Flight attendants who suspect Kyle is a head case. Fellow travelers worried that she is a terrorist. An air marshal (Peter Sarsgaard) who doesn't know what to think. A pilot (well-played by Sean Bean) with stiff-upper-lip discipline and trembling-lower-lip sympathy. No matter who's looking, Kyle brings new meaning to the term "flight risk."
When the audience tires of the way Schwentke s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s 30 minutes of suspense over 100 minutes, there is always the airplane to marvel at, and it's a beaut.
The plane in the movie exists only in the imagination of production designer Alexander Hammond, who has conceived a two-deck craft that combines the amenities of a Ford Navigator, a 747, and Air Force One. It's bigger than an Airbus, and everyone in coach seems to have business-class leg room.
Once he exhausts the narrative possibilities and Foster's acting skills, Schwentke plays hide-and-seek with the audience on the spiffy airplane.
Kyle knows which in the tricolor spaghetti of wires in avionics can help frustrate her (imagined?) adversaries, and knows how to unlock every mystery door and passageway that this plane has to offer.
Despite excellent elements - great actress, taut plot, slick visuals - "Flightplan" is like airplane food. No matter how good the ingredients the air chef has to work with, the entree inevitably ends up tasting like a Xerox of a facsimile of a meal.
Produced by Brian Grazer, directed by Robert Schwentke, written by Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray, photography by Florian Ballhaus, music by James Horner, distributed by Touchstone Pictures and Imagine Entertainment.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 mins.
Kyle Pratt/Jodie Foster
Gene Carson/Peter Sarsgaard
Capt. Rich/Sean Bean
Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence, intense themes)
(c) 2005, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
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