Director: Jean-François Richet
Writer: Charles Cumming and J.P. Davis
Stars: Gerard Butler, Mike Colter, Yoson An
Synopsis: A pilot finds himself caught in a war zone after he’s forced to land his commercial aircraft during a terrible storm.
Plane is an action film that seems to have come out of a time machine, straight from 1996. Its one-word title, simple premise, and reliance on action stars are all relics from a time long past. Gerard Butler once again shows why he is an action hero, and French director Jean-François Richet shows why action is his favorite genre to work in. Plane is an electrifying, albeit conventional, action film that is greater than the sum of its parts.
The film follows Captain Brodie Torrance ( Butler) on an ordinary New Years eve flight from Singapore to Tokyo, that turns out to be all but ordinary. Amongst the 14 passenger flight is homicide suspect Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter), and the flight path is set over the South China Sea and through an ongoing, but temporary, lightning storm. When the storm doesn’t blow over as Brodie’s superiors said it would, the plane is struck by lightning, and forced to land on a dangerous, war-torn island while waiting for rescue. The premise is simple, with an ensemble cast of characters who could be described in a sentence each. Captain Brodie is quick on his feet and willing to go down with his ship. Louis Gaspare is haunted by his past and seeks redemption. Brodie’s co-pilot, Dele (Yoson An), follows orders and can’t wait to see his family. Bonnie (Daniella Pineda) is the lead flight attendant who sees her co-workers as family. Junmar (Evan Dane Taylor) is the leader of terrorists who will stop at nothing to have more power. The passengers of the flight are all self-centered. These characters have little going on under the hood, and moments of depth are few and far between. On paper, the story is a familiar action-survival flick with little for the audience to attach too.
And yet somehow, this never seems to matter when watching the film, because each performance gives so much more to each character. Butler plays a wonderful Scottish pilot, as he commits to the role completely, in spite of its shallow caricature. Colter gives Louis an empathetic exterior that enables the audience to care for him despite how little character there is on the page. An is stellar in the role of Dele, being immediately likable and lending weight to the increasing stakes of the film. Every actor commits to their roles with 100 percent sincerity, and it disguises the weaknesses found in the script.
Plane’s greatest strength, appropriately, lies in its action. The film is full of sequences and setpieces that are all completely different in style and genre. It has races, chases, shootouts, and brawls. It even hast stealth missions and ticking bombs, and it all works together to create a visceral experience that is unpredictable from moment to moment. The film feels fresh and exciting in every sequence because the action has drastically changed from the start of the film. What once was a race through a storm evolves into an all out war on a tarmac, and it’s a beautiful sight to see. The editing and sound design puts the momentary risks front and center, and never lets you forget what is at stake for our characters. And when the action ends, the film takes a breath, slowing down to remind the audience of how important it is that these characters make it off the island.
It’s action filmmaking that is simple and to the point, lacking any fat that could weigh down this plane. And while it may be a cliched, familiar story we’ve seen a hundred times before, it’s shown in a way that feels exciting and fresh in the moment. Plane is a film that is an experience to behold in cinemas, and an entertaining one at that.