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SPOILERS: Flightplan intense ride

Flightplan intense ride
Sean Bean as Captain Rich in FlightplanFilm Review: Flightplan

By David Frank - The Daily Iowan
Published: Monday, September 26, 2005
Article Tools: Page 1 of 1

*** 1/2 out of ****

Barfing flying-phobes, obnoxious kids, grope-happy businessmen, and coke-snorting divas have nothing on Jodie Foster, who embodies the airplane passenger from hell in Flightplan.

Emotionally frazzled after her husband belly-flopped off a building, Foster's character and her young daughter (who speaks in the sort of cutey-pie dialogue that only a grown male screenwriter could generate) put the stiff on ice and embark on a cross-Atlantic flight back to the states. While zipping above the clouds in an enormous jet Foster helped design, the mother and daughter take a nap.

Not the best idea on Foster's part, because she awakes to discover her daughter is missing. Maybe the kid found some other children to play with? Nope. Maybe the kid is roaming the aisles annoying the passengers? Double nope. Maybe the kid has bypassed the locks and security measures and is fumbling around in the cargo-hold. Unlikely, but who knows?

highlight below for spoilers
Well in fact, nobody knows were the kid has vanished to - hell, no one even remembers seeing the brat to begin with - and Foster rockets from frazzled to frantic to outright batshit. She runs through the aircraft screaming like her hair is on fire, accuses Arab passengers of stalking her, demands that the plane's captain (the always great Sean "Lord of the Rings arrow target" Bean) search every crevice of the soaring airbus, and, later on, uses her electrical know-how to scare the in-flight meal out of the passengers by playing on/off with the lights and forcing the oxygen-masks to drop from the ceiling.

These are the type of shenanigans that tend to force a flight's air marshal to take notice, and, sure enough, the marshal, played by Peter Sarsgaard (Shattered Glass, Garden State), shackles Foster and insists that her daughter never occupied the plane. Of course, Foster rejects this notion.

By this point, the filmmakers have done a wonderful job of pressuring us to question Foster's hold on reality. And I wouldn't dare spoil the diagnosis of Foster's mental health. Yet, the final act, which contains a twist (as all movies are legally mandated to have these days), plays fair and doesn't cheat á la Hide and Seek.

Is the general idea behind the plot absurd? Yes. But the screenplay works within its own logic, and the film pulsates with suspense and intrigue as director Robert Schwentke thrusts Flightplan forward with tight-pacing and a consistent sense of urgency.

Precision performances also aid in swallowing the horse-pill of a plot. Foster - who for the love of all that is quality-acting should appear in a film more than every few years - crackles with a shrewd intelligence that's bundled to the out-of-control intensity of an emotional train crash. Bean does a lot with a little by instilling his captain with a dwindling thread of empathy for Foster's situation.

And then there's Sarsgaard, who's not only the focus of my current man-crush but also the best under-the-radar character actor today. Similar to his other performances, Sarsgaard delivers a performance of such natural ease that we don't even realize the subtlety of it until hours after viewing. He peels the layers off like an onion, yet, his trick is that he doesn't tear up and explicitly clue us in on the fact that an onion was ever being peeled to begin with.

E-mail DI film critic David Frank at:
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