Publication Date: September 23, 2005
Panic Room on a plane might be the pitch for German director Robert Schwentke's handsome thriller. Jodie Foster reprises her role as a single mother -- this time recently widowed and ferociously protective of her young daughter -- struggling for survival in another tight space.
Checking into the same fly-the-unfriendly skies genre as Red Eye, the narrative combines a professional-woman protagonist with today's high-anxiety levels about security issues.
But whereas the Wes Craven fright film soars to white-knuckle heights at take-off, Flightplan threatens to stall. Peter A. Dowling's and Billy Ray's script spends an inordinate amount of precious screen time questioning whether the bereaved Kyle Pratt (Foster) boarded the Berlin-to-New York plane with her 6-year-old (Marlene Lawston's debut) in tow -- or not. Everyone from the captain (Sean Bean of National Treasure) to the air marshal (Peter Sarsgaard of The Skeleton Key) wonders if she's simply a childless woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Grab your pillow and prepare for a nap. You've seen this psychological suspense film too many times.
Viewers, like the characters, don't know if Kyle Pratt is emotionally and mentally unhinged. And what if she is? Other than barreling down the aisles and harassing the crew and fellow passengers, she poses no threat to the transatlantic flight.
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But when a major plot point twists the narrative -- letting the audience know what most of the airborne do not -- the cabin truly becomes pressurized. Small details introduced earlier start to pay off.
In The Silence of the Lambs, Foster indelibly fashioned the female protagonist who could battle her own demons to meet a madman's calm with intelligence and cool-headed resolve. Almost 25 years later, she brings the same mix to a more physically demanding role. Flightplan is no classic but offers a satisfying experience -- even though liver, fava beans and a bottle of Chianti aren't featured on the in-flight menu.
Rating: PG-13 for violence and some intense plot material. 1 hours, 28 minutes.