How unfortunate that this thriller at 40,000 feet comes so soon after the release of Red Eye, which milked its handful of queasy mid-flight jitters and had the decency of wrapping itself up with relative expediency. It was swift, unpretentious, and disposable—a quick fix for the mainstream set. The reason we feel gratitude for such a minor effort is because it jerks us off nice and fast, as opposed to being a dull tease like Flightplan. Grieving widow Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) is attached to her six-year-old daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston), and her sanity is put to the test when her daughter vanishes during a Transatlantic flight and none of the flight crew or passengers remember seeing her on board. This leads to an interminable search, with Kyle questioning her fragile grip on sanity. Foster remains a compelling heroine of the “strong yet fragile” variety, and she finds excellent foils in Peter Sarsgaard’s smarmy air marshal and Sean Bean’s well-intentioned but increasingly frustrated captain. The audience may well identify with Sarsgaard and Bean, since Foster’s endless teeth-grinding and complaining are a patience tester, pitching her performance so intense, raw, and grating that the deck is stacked way against our believing her. The racial profiling and threats of terrorism that eke their way into any thriller on a plane nowadays feel like they’ve been checked off a screenwriter’s to-do list, as does the “heroine strikes back” burst of vengeance. The camera swoops around like David Fincher in hyperactive mode, but it doesn’t speed up the proceedings so much as weigh them down in excess. If the crocodile tears and humorlessness of the drama aren’t enough to goof on, the third act revelation has to be seen to be believed. By Hollywood standards, it’s the predictable outcome we’ve come to expect, but the more cardinal offense here is that this is a story where you can’t imagine a satisfying outcome. If the daughter was never there, we’ve been watching a madwoman walk over everyone for nearly two hours. And if she was there, the explanation would amount to sheer ludicrousness. Talk about lose-lose. If Red Eye is still playing, at least you can plan to waste your time a little more efficiently.
- Robert Schwentke
- Peter A. Dowling, Billy Ray
- Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean, Erika Christensen, Greta Scacchi
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