Cinema has often found the fascination for stories that take place more than 10,000 metres above the ground, specifically aboard aircrafts. Flight and Sully are some of the most compelling movies that are narrated through the captain’s perspective. A new action thriller follows this pattern, Plane, directed by Jean-François Richet, written by Charles Cumming and J. P. Davis.
The story begins on New Year’s Eve when a plane departs from Hong Kong with about fifteen passengers on board. The person in charge of the flight is Commander Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler). The pilot is forced by his company Trailblazer to take off despite a storm is coming. But the turbulence becomes so strong that the aircraft is struck by lightening and Brodie Torrance has to improvise a landing on the remote island of Jolo in the Philippines. This turns out to be very dangerous area because it is controlled by pro-independence guerrillas, where not even the Manila army dared to set foot for some time. The hostile presences of the island soon manifest themselves by assaulting the plane and capturing the crew and travellers. Meanwhile Captain Torrance, has wandered into the island to seek for help with one of the passengers, an accused murderer who was travelling escorted by an FBI agent, Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter). The two will have to act swiftly and smartly to rescue all the abducted passengers.
The narrative is reassuringly predictable from beginning to end, exactly as the genre requires. However, the way Jean-François Richet uses the camera is beyond gripping. Viewers feel aboard the aircraft and in the middle of the most riveting action moments. The aerial feats that defy the laws of physics, the raw hand-to-hand combats, the gunfights, the undercover rescue operations and the mysteries of a jungle populated by ruthless criminals, take your breath away.
Jean-François Richet does not rely on special effects but rather on a compelling storytelling that builds up suspense, thanks to its pressing pace mixed with elements of authenticity. In fact, Plane captures very well the procedure of airline routines, what happens inside the cabin, what a storm looks like from an aircraft, how human trafficking dynamics take place and the way search-and-rescue forces intervene.
The themes of courage — that almost crosses over to recklessness — is celebrated as the hero feels it his responsibility to save every single one of the endangered travellers that were on his flight. The protagonist is inspirational and aspirational, he is the valiant guiding figure who does not shy away from danger, but actually steps in proactively to solve a situation of crisis. Brodie Torrance has a Die Hard quality to him, that is enriched by a deep sympathy and humbleness.
Besides the leading character, the supporting roles such as the flight attendants, the passengers, the pilot’s daughter, the employees at headquarters, and the Filipino outlaws all fit the mould for this kind of film. They are brilliantly brought to life by the entire cast because they come across as extremely realistic.
Plane is a guilty pleasure, an entertainment flick that relies on a type of carefree cinema that is unpretentious and has the only goal of giving an adrenaline rush to its spectators. It fulfils this very well and leads audiences to the destination they expect.
Final Grade: B