Flight Plan (10/10)
“Red Eye” was a gripping thriller, and a fitting prelude to “Flight Plan,”
which is even better. Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) is flying from Berlin to
America to take her husband’s coffin back for burial. He had fallen off a
rooftop to his death. Flying along with her is her six year old daughter,
Julia (Marlene Lawston). Kyle goes to sleep and when she awakens, Julia is
nowhere to be seen. Where is she? Nobody on the plane admits to ever
having seen her. Kyle is frantic. Where’s Julia?
That’s the film. Kyle acts as any distraught mother would and does
everything she can to find Julia, involving the Captain Rich (Sean Bean),
the crew, the Air Marshal, Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard), and other
passengers. The success of this film depends on whether or not Foster can
be a harried, unbelieved mother throughout and she carries it off in
spades. Sarsgaard, who gave the performance of the year, for my money, in
“Shattered Glass” (2003), and should have received the Best Supporting
Actor Oscar, is equally good as the sympathetic Air Marshall who is trying
to understand and support Kyle as she searches frantically for her
daughter. Carson has to determine whether Kyle really did have a daughter
who is missing, or if she’s crazy. He gives an outstanding performance as
a perplexed, but understanding official.
Similarly, Captain Rich is placed in an equally untenable situation. On
the one hand he has the possibility that a child is missing on his plane,
requiring him to not only try to find her, but to deal with her upset
mother. On the other hand he has the responsibility for the safety of all
the other passengers and the equanimity of the flight. Bean expertly
captures the captain’s dilemma.
Marlene Lawston, who plays the missing daughter, looks so much like Jodie
Foster I was wondering if she was related. It’s a remarkable casting
achievement and the young actress lives up to the challenge. It is even
more admirable when it’s considered that every scene in which she appears,
she shares the stage with superstar Foster.
The premise is made believable because Kyle is an aeronautical engineer
and knows the construction of the plane by heart, which helps her in her
search. The original script by Bryan Dowling had a male protagonist, but
Producer Brian Grazer envisioned this as a vehicle for Jodie Foster. When
she signed on, Grazer brought in screenwriter Billy Ray, who revised the
story for a female protagonist (the name of the protagonist, Kyle,
remained unchanged from male to female).
The plane is a fictional E-474 Jumbo Jet. It has nooks and crannies that
Kyle knows, but that you won’t find in any plane extant. It reminded me of
the dirigible in “The Hindenburg” (1975), which had inner workings
accessible to George C. Scott and the bad guys that probably didn’t exist
in the real thing. The 474 is crammed full of these places. On top of
that, it’s incredibly luxurious.
Coming in at a compact 93 minutes, the producers got German indie
filmmaker Robert Schwentke to direct and he structured the film so that it
plunges almost immediately into the suspense and maintains it throughout.
This is a tense, entertaining film.
September 22, 2005