2023, R, 107 mins.
Gerard Butler as Brodie Torrance / Mike Colter as Louis Gaspare / Yoson An as Dele / Tony Goldwyn as Scarsdale / Daniella Pineda as Bonnie / Paul Ben-Victor as Hampton / Remi Adeleke as Shellback / Joey Slotnick as Sinclair / Evan Dane Taylor as Junmar / Claro de los Reyes as Hajan / Haleigh Hekking as Daniela TorranceDirected by Jean-François Richet / Written by Charles Cumming and J.P. Davis
PLANE is one of the better films with an ultra bland title that I've seen in awhile. I mean, you look at that word on the poster and it just doesn't scream out at you, does it?
But this action thriller does - sarcasm aside - boast a premise of simple economy:
Gerald Butler plays a rugged and tough pilot whose plane crash lands on an island, leaving himself, the crew and passengers having to fend off blood thirsty militants that reside there.
So much of PLANE
comes off as a hybrid of disaster efforts like AIRPORT, the hardcore
jungle-infused action of RAMBO, and the
self-rescue elements of the video game series FAR CRY.
Directed with a slick workmanlike confidence by Jean-Francois
Richet (who previously made the quite decent BLOOD
FATHER and well before that the thanklessly solid remake of ASSAULT
ON PRECINCT 13), PLANE embraces its pulpy ludicrousness and
emerges as a wickedly enjoyable retrograde thriller that kind of joyously
hearkens back to the types of brainless (but enjoyable) action pictures of
the 80s and 90s.
That, and it features Butler - fully in his element here - giving a
surprisingly grounded performance as his vulnerable everyman hero.
and OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN star
appears here as Brodie Torrence, a pilot for Trailblazer Airlines that's
about to depart for a fairly routine flight from Singapore to Hawaii,
after which time he wants to settle in from some time with his daughter
that he has been away from because of work commitments.
We learn a few details about him early on, like the fact that he's
a widower and was let go from his previous high end airplane gig because
he was forced to get physical with an unruly passenger, which led him to
taking a lower marquee job at Trailblazer to fly half empty planes around
Asia at less than desirable times.
Still, Brodie takes to his current assignment with the utmost
professionalism and prepares to fly his scant 14 passengers to their
We also meet his co-pilot (Yoson An) and head flight attendant
(Daniella Pineda), not to mention that we get quick intros to the
passengers themselves, all of whom are more one-dimensional character
types than fully fleshed out people.
Oh, there's also Louis (Mike Colter), who's a prisoner that was
previously convicted of murder that's being transferred on Brodie's plane
alongside an armed air marshal.
You just know
that things will not go well for this flight when Brodie and his team are
ordered by higher ups to push through a massive storm during their journey.
Despite Brodie's more than capable piloting expertise, his plane is
struck by lightning somewhere over the Philippines, which forces him to
use some quick wits and plot an emergency landing.
They do manage to make it to a nearby and unknown island (all
navigation systems were fried during the strike, so they were flying
blind), but during the chaos of the crash one of the stewardesses dies
alongside (uh-oh!) the air marshal.
Once Brodie is able to survey the situation, he orders everyone off
the plane and into the Philippine island elements so they can take stock
of what's salvageable on the downed airliner.
With intense heat, little water and food, and without actually
knowing where they are and being unable to communicate with the outside
world, Brodie takes it upon himself to trek into the jungle in search of
civilization and a way to call his bosses back home to launch a rescue
He decides to take Louis alongside him, mostly because he looks
like he can handle himself and is revealed to be ex-military.
While this duo is gone a local militia arrives at the crash sight,
and these lawless separatists see any outsider as easy pickings for
abduction and later ransoming.
They kidnap everyone left behind, leaving Brodie and Louis
springing into an impromptu rescue plan.
Concurrent to this are scenes back home in New York with
Trailblazer CEO Hampton (Paul Ben Victor) having emergency meetings to
assess what can be done for this seemingly doomed plane.
A take-no-prisoners PR man in Scarsdale (Tony Goldwyn) shows up and
launches his plan to send in mercenaries to the crash sight (granted, that
might not be the best PR move for a corporation trying to evade the press
on this disaster).
The marketing of
PLANE is only half correct about the actual kind of film we have here,
seeing as ads for it heavily pitched it as a DIE HARD-ian action thriller,
which is true to a degree.
Interestingly, there are a lot of procedural elements contained
within that are more understated and nuanced, and much of the opening
sections of the film almost have a documentary feel for the ebbs and flows
of routine flight checks, departure prep, and finally takeoffs.
It's certainly a more potentially mundane way to open a film of
this ilk, and some viewers may fidget in their seats wondering when the
film will boil over into action, but I appreciated Richet's slow build
approach to the premise and underlining material.
As a director, he's good at scenes of casual observation between
characters and - much later on - really delves into the paranoia and
feverous levels of anxiety that plague Brodie, his crew, and the
passengers while facing unknown and potentially harsh elements.
The plane crash sequence itself is pretty spectacularly staged and
executed as well, and for several minutes we witness Brodie do everything
in his power to land his lifeless plane with a dozen-plus passengers
rightfully freaking out into hysterics.
Yes, we've all seen an innumerable number of plane crash sequences
in movies before, but PLANE deserves props for making its standout
sequence viscerally intense and quite scary.
The film also wisely reminds viewers why you should always - and I
mean always! - wear your seatbelt on board a plane after instructed
to by the crew.
picks up momentum and speed after the crash in question, during which time
Brodie and Louis realize that their somewhat tenuous partnership needs to
hanker down and find any way to work cohesively together to get those
passengers back from those damn dirty militant kidnappers.
To say that PLANE plays into Butler's strengths is an
understatement, but it was somewhat refreshing to see that his Brodie is
not portrayed as some sort of indestructible and impervious to pain action
hero on pure autopilot.
Obviously, this red eye pilot is no push over and - as alluded to
earlier - he can handle himself in tight spots, but even with his past
history with violence and a street cred toughness Brodie is shown as being
more emotionally shakey than in snarky kick-ass mode.
There's an urgency to how Butler plays this character as well, and
this Scottish pilot has to constantly battle intense fatigue and a
frightening uncertainty of what's to come with every new scene.
And he's frequently unsure of himself, which makes his normal man
driven to become a hero feel like a bit more of an organic journey.
This role is no large stretch for the actor, to be sure, and he has
played macho guys placed in dire survival situations for most of his
career, but he's undeniably good in PLANE as his brawny, determined, but
sometimes lacking in confidence hero.
He's also well paired with Colter (decent in Netflix's LUKE CAGE),
who has the less showier part, but nevertheless brings some calm spoken
and steely eyed authority to Brodie's unlikely companion.
On a negative,
though, PLANE has its share of issues, not the least of which are cookie
cutter, cardboard cutout baddies in those militia men (lead by Evan Dane
Taylor's Junmar) that are delineated in the most black and white manner of
pure villainy possible (the geo-politics of the film are laughably watered
down too, which does not help matters).
The mercs that Trailblazer higher ups inexplicably decide to hire
and send in are also poorly written (they're all one-note hardened grunts
that facilitate the film's need to help Brodie and Louis on the firepower
front...and not much else).
Still, it's an undeniable giddy blast to see Brodie and company
take names and kick militia ass to save those defenseless passengers, and
Richet generates some white knuckled moments of in-your-face violence
during the cat and mouse games that occur between Brodie, Louis and these
There's one staggeringly well engineered initial fight between
Brodie and one of Junmar's thugs inside an abandoned building with the
only working phone that the former can find on the island.
I also really dug the large scale climax involving Brodie with his
newly arrived black-ops allies that have come with an improbably huge
sniper riffle that can blast through just about any form of cover and
grotesquely pierces targets and then sends what remains of them flying for
several feet back like they've been hit by a rocket (cooooool).
Everything builds to a fairly cartoonish finale involving a
preposterous escape plan from the island that doesn't perhaps make much
sense at all, but the build up to it is breathlessly exciting all the