It’s big. It’s expensive. It’s Flightplan. And surprisingly, it’s good too. From take-off to landing, Flightplan is an intense thriller with yet another superb acting job from Jodie Foster.
A film with plot set in one place that manages to keep the audience on the edge of their seats is worth seeing. And Flightplan is no exception.
It starts in Germany, days after the death of Kyle Pratt’s husband. Kyle (Foster) and her daughter, Julia, played by the oh-so-cute Marlene Lawston, are thrown into despair as they lose the third member of their family and are forced to leave their life in Germany behind as they move back to the United States.
Lucky for them, they get to ride back to the United States in style – they will be among the first passengers to ride on the new double-decker plane that Kyle helped design during her time in Germany.
Of course, the first step toward moving on is easier said than done for Kyle and Julia.
Minutes into their flight, Kyle awakes from an unexpected nap to find the chair next to her empty, except for Julia’s one-armed teddy bear. When she doesn’t find any other traces of her daughter on the plane, Kyle asks the flight crew for their help in finding the lost child.
When an exhaustive search of the passenger areas turns up nothing, and no one agrees that they saw Julia get on the plane at all, Kyle becomes desperate, and somewhat psychotic, much to the horror of the other passengers.
As the search continues, the plot thickens. Confirmation received from the Berlin Airport declares Julia never boarded the plane. When Kyle reveals that her husband died a few days prior to the flight, an even larger shadow is cast over the validity of her claims. Even worse, her outbursts and demands to search every inch of the plane have convinced the other passengers that she is mentally unbalanced.
Lucky for Kyle, she has two advantages. As one of the members of the design team for the plane, she knows every nook and cranny that a child might hide in. Also, she has an ally in the mysterious and handsome federal marshal assigned to protect the plane (played to perfection by the always entertaining Peter Sarsgaard). No one else may believe her, but Kyle believes she stands a chance with the marshal, as might the life of her precious daughter.
The film itself works on so many levels. It features a compelling story, but it also features many comments on American life as we know it. When a flight attendant is the first to admit she never saw Julia board the plane, everyone else falls into place and relays the same story. Since a person of authority was the first individual to make a comment on the situation, the other witnesses to that situation felt obligated to back up her story. No one dared to contradict it.
This comment and others lead to the main focus of the underlying subtext, which begs us to consider how safe we really are in the hands of the people we are required to trust the most. Flightplan features incredible sets, first-rate acting and a mostly solid story.
There is some discrepancy over the final reason as to why Julia vanishes, and when the first step is taken by the filmmakers to unravel the nitty gritty of the vanishing, the story loses momentum fast. Luckily, the momentum is restored by Kyle’s determination to find her daughter and prove the naysayers wrong.
If most of the fall movie offerings are as entertaining as Flightplan, it looks like moviegoers will be in for a season of smooth sailing. Or flying in this case.
Marta Rusek can be reached at MRusek@temple.edu.