Despite slight turbulence, with Foster aboard “Flightplan” soars
Few actors can exude empathy while simulating the emotions of paranoia and panic as credibly as Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster. That’s why she’s the perfect choice to star in “Flightplan,” a tight, taut thriller that will remind her fans of 2002’s “Panic Room.”
The previews make the film look like a cross between the recent “Red Eye” and last year’s “The Forgotten,” but don’t let that deter you. Flightplan” only borrows liberally from the Hitchcock playbook and has enough smarts to allow the plot turns, as well as the plausible decisions of its protagonist, to stay one step ahead of the audience.
Foster portrays Kyle Pratt, an aircraft engineer who, with her young daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston) in tow, are flying from Berlin to New York after the death of Kyle’s husband. We are lead to believe her husband’s death was an accident, and the grieving wife makes extra effort to calm her apprehensive daughter as the two board a plane in which the casket is stored in the cargo area.
Shortly after takeoff, Julia disappears and Kyle begins her increasingly frantic search– much to the dismay of the crew and that of the anxious majority of passengers.
The film works because everyone acts believably. As the sturdy Captain, Sean Bean resists overreaction. Also on board is an undercover Air Marshal (Sleepy-eyed Peter Sarsgaard), whose sulky expressions provoke either a creepy mistrust or a guarded insouciance.
Some might question the nervous reaction by many of those aboard in response to Kyle’s seemingly erratic behavior, which includes some tense interaction with several Middle Eastern passengers. (This particular plot twist involves the only red herring the film leaves unexplained– but it isn’t irritating.) On the contrary, considering today’s post 9/11 sensitivity, nothing in “Flightplan” seems beyond possibility.
Sure, the film requires a certain suspension of logic since a variety of elements must coalesce in order to paint a picture of Kyle as borderline delusional. And the story relies heavily on Kyle’s superior knowledge of the plane’s design. But that could be why she’s also the perfect victim, or perpetrator, right?
A nail-biting pace, strong momentum, and Foster’s palpably passionate conviction overcome the abrupt and, some might say, anticlimactic finale. In actuality, the film’s brevity is refreshing. Too many films draw out the ending and leave the audience more beleaguered than bemused.
“Flightplan” doesn’t taxi too long. It sets its course, does its business and wraps it up as if to say, “Let’s roll.”
Rated PG-13 for Violence and intense plot material.