(Caution: may contain spoilers)
I often feel that Jodie Foster ends up in films which aren’t really worthy of her – as if, as for Denzel Washington, there just aren’t enough decent scripts being offered as possible projects. And so ho-hum ones end up getting accepted for whatever reason.
Which brings me to Flightplan. A bit of an airborne version of Panic Room (mother and daughter are in peril in an enclosed environment), this really is a curate’s egg of a film. The first third is interesting, with civil engineer Kyle Pratt (Foster) and her daughter boarding a flight from Berlin to the USA, with the coffin containing her recently-deceased husband in the hold. This section of the film is quite watchable, as there are various fades in and out as we see Pratt reeling from her husband’s death, and there’s a quite well-established sense of uncertainty as to exactly what’s real.
Onboard the plane, things take a strange twist when the daughter vanishes while her mother’s sleeping, and yet no-one on the plane seems to have seen her at all, with the evidence suggesting she was never on board. Pratt’s frantic attempts to search the plane are met with increasing disbelief, including a frankly rather odd performance from an onboard therapist who tries to convince Pratt that she’s delusional – I say it’s odd because it looks like every therapy cliché you could possibly think of; glasses removed thoughtfully, calming voice, that kind of thing.
As you’ll probably have guessed, it’s all a huge plot (though writing this a day or two later, I forget exactly why they needed to abduct the daughter to go through with it), and the revelation that this is so moves us into the second bit of the film, with a frankly terrible gearchange; almost every scene up until this point has featured or revolved around Pratt, as she acts as our ‘viewpoint character’, but at this stage one of the other characters walks away from Pratt, the camera follows, and the music takes on a menacing tone. This, you know, is the film’s baddie, and the way in which this is revealed is a real mis-step. As is the expository dialogue between the conspirators, which is often on the lines of “You know the plan, we’ve been through this a thousand times…” and then they tell each other things they already know, purely for the benefit of the audience’s understanding.
And the third bit of the film is when Pratt realises what’s going on, and starts to fight back; at least this is semi-foreshadowed in her allotted job, as she needs to know where she can run around and hide. This last portion of the film is really at odds with the slow opening sequences, as if the interesting direction has been jetissoned in favour of a more straightforward action film approach. Fine in itself, but it makes the film feel like a patchwork, which means the joins are going to be visible…
The performances are perfectly adequate – Foster does what she can with some thin material, and Sean Bean as the captain is pretty decent, though I’m increasingly thinking he and Sean Pertwee are one and the same person – but after the attention-holding opening section, the premise needs to be explained and resolved, and it all feels like an inevitable slide towards the end titles, with some chasing and explosions on the way, and one or two horribly cheesey lines en route. And I’ve mentioned the therapist bit, which really is misjudged.
Flightplan’s the kind of film you could rent and think ‘that was okay’, or you might even catch it on TV, in which case you’ll probably be drawn in by the opening third or so, and then stick around to see how it pays off as you’ve watched that far.But I can’t really suggest you bother with a trip to the cinema to see it. I paid half price for my ticket, but I still felt vaguely ripped off, which probably gives you an idea of how lukewarm my reaction is.