by Amy Diaz
Jodie Foster quietly
panics her way through another thriller in Flightplan, a movie of
predictable but serviceable plot twists.
Barring some sort of social engagement, you probably dress yourself
thusly — jeans, first clean top you run into, hair-taming device (cap,
ponytail holder, clip-thing), shoes that require the least amount of
effort to put on. Usually, this outfit resembles something that a
college student would wear to do laundry. Occasionally, however, you
catch a reflection of yourself and are shocked to see that you look good
— a study in casual grace, in relaxed down-to-earth attractiveness.
Flightplan is that pair
of jeans that is unexpectedly flattering with your faded top and
too-flashy sandals. Very little care appears to have gone into its
assembly and any one item (acting, dialogue, plot, visuals) is
individually disinteresting at best. But together it looks not half bad
— good enough not to shock anyone with awfulness.
Flightplan, in essence,
is that outfit you wouldn’t wear to a restaurant but feel relatively
comfortable in at the mall.
I’m sure being “not
awful” isn’t exactly Jodie Foster’s career goal but when you’re only
running at half speed you can’t expect miracles. It takes us a while to
warm up to Kyle (Foster), a plane designer who has recently lost her
husband. She and her 6-year-old daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston) are
headed back to New York after years in Berlin. They load up their
luggage and their dead patriarch and head home in a ridiculously lavish
plane. After liftoff, the ladies retire to the improbably empty rows in
the plane’s rear and fall asleep. When Kyle wakes up, Julia is gone.
What follows is,
essentially, a really long, slow version of
where’d-I-leave-the-car-keys. Kyle looks everywhere, panics a little,
looks some more, panics some more, gets others to look and slowly sucks
into her drama the entire population of the plane as her panic grows
like yeast-filled dough. At some point in the search, the possibility is
raised that perhaps Kyle never even had a daughter on the plane. So then
we get the panic flavored with doubt. Peter Sarsgaard plays an air
marshal adding just the right amount of post-9/11 paranoia and jumpiness
to the situation.
What makes Flightplan
work well enough to keep you from just wanting the damn plane to land
already is the inherent bitchiness and lack-of-sympathy in the flight
staff. Flight attendants and commercial airline pilots may be perfectly
nice people with homes and children and hopes and dreams. But get these
people in the air and they seem like evil sadists. The flight attendants
here — crisp uniforms adding to masks of hardness — are unfeeling and
bitter and use the regulations to torture their passengers, seemingly
with glee. When — about half way through the movie — tensions among
passengers threaten to come to blows, you’re almost surprised that no
one thinks to take a pop at the stewardesses, just for the hell of it.
The indignities of
modern air travel make this kind of merciless skewering such a welcome
sight that you can almost overlook the movie’s general sloppiness. Like
a faded but still legible novelty shirt, Flightplan still offers mild