Plane review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Plane is a film where you go in hoping to see some action involving terrorists and a commercial flight. That feels obligatory based primarily on the fact that the film stars Gerard Butler. Pretty sure there's some contract that requires him to punch somebody. To its credit, there's a decent action piece involving gunfire, a damaged plane, and some getting killed by the landing gear. That's the fun stuff. Unfortunately, that's the only fun stuff.
Butler plays Brody, a name not worth knowing because there's little to his character. He's a commercial pilot with a short fuse and a daughter he's seeking to get home to after one more flight. Unfortunately, this is a flight where one of the passengers is a criminal, the extradited Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter). Double unfortunate, a storm forces the Plane to crash land. Triple unfortunate, the island they land on is in the Philippines and teeming with violent militia members.
What follows is a daring clash of Butler and Colter taking on an onslaught of gun-toting, fist-throwing, and rocket-launching terrorists who seek little more than to murder their new guests and pillage their belongings. Some of these fights are pretty brutal, as when Colter goes down on the terrorists holding hostages by delivering sledgehammers to foreheads. Other fights feel like they’re only halfway through the editing process, as when Brody’s first fight with one of the militia members feels awkwardly lacking in tension and sound effects to be a compelling scene of excitement. The climax also has its fair share of brilliance with bad guys getting shot back with a powerful gun, flinging them around like ragdolls.
All that stuff is fine, but there’s very little to care about with so many bog-standard characters who are rarely interesting. Butler is just Butler, and Colter plays a guy who is so eager to take the money and run that he literally does just that in this narrative. The passengers are not all that memorable, where even the uppity American who is one “Let me speak to your leader” demand away from a bullet to the brain feels more like a template without the personality portion filled in. Perhaps the only character worth caring about in any of this is the Special Forces manager played by Tony Goldwyn, who takes this role so seriously despite spending all of it confined to one room and barking orders.
Now I can accept a film like this being mindless action and disaster, but those scenarios feel like all the thrills would have to pick up the slack. Sadly, they do not. I’d like to appreciate the terror of the plane going down in the opening act amid a thunderstorm. Still, the scene is so poorly lit and shaky with the camera that it becomes difficult to figure out where everybody is in the scene and who just died from getting knocked around in the aisles. I’d like to enjoy the scene with Brody cutting off the circulation to his first militia member in a fight, but it’s a scene in dire need of some post-production fixes. These issues make it hard to appreciate the solid climax, which is surprisingly well-shot and paced decently compared to the rest of the picture.
Plane is just…well, plain. It serves up only a minimum amount of thrills and phones in the rest as autopilot kicks in for most of the script and a good chunk of the set pieces. Even in the realm of mindless action films teeming with carnage, this film turns up short.