2005 - United States - 98 minutes
Writers - Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray
Director - Robert Schwentke
Internet Movie Database User Rating - 6.0/10 - Link to IMDB
Roger Ebert Rating - 3.5 of 4 Stars - Link to Ebert's Review
My Rating - 3 of 5 Stars

Flightplan is what I describe as a "guilty pleasure flick" - all you need do is grab a bowl of popcorn, sit back, and enjoy. There are no moral messages or other lofty thoughts that require you to delve to any level deeper than the surface. It's just good entertainment.

The basic story is about a mother - an aeronautical engineer living in Germany - flying home to the United States with her six year old daughter and the body of her deceased husband. Of course, the mother helped to design the plane they board, a huge two-story aircraft that dwarfs a Boeing 747. Both mother and daughter are emotionally spent over the death of husband and father. Waking from a long, sleep, the mother finds that her daughter is missing and that no one on the plane even remembers seeing her. There is no record of the daughter ever boarding the plane. To say more would spoil the movie for anyone choosing to watch it.

I looked back over my mini-reviews of other airplane guilty pleasure flicks such as Airport, Air Force One, Executive Decision, etc. and saw that I gave most of them four or five stars. Flightplan gets only three stars because many elements of the plot are just too far-fetched, causing the whole thing to be less satisfying. In addition to faulty and contrived plot elements, the director has made - through unspoken clues - the motives of some of the players far too clear too early in the film.

However, Jodie Foster, as the mother, makes this film worth watching. She is definitely a superior actor who delivers a wealth of emotions. Here, she makes you care about the woman she's portraying even though the character is surrounded by too many clichés and plot flaws.

The DVD extras greatly add to the overall enjoyment of the film, especially the one detailing the concept, design, and construction of the plane in which most of the film takes place. It is particularly fascinating to see how much work goes into the details of this huge set. The innovative design elements enable the crew and actors to depict realistically a great deal of action within a confined space.

As I was watching Flightplan and relishing the excellent performance of Jodie Foster, I kept remembering No Highway in the Sky, filmed in 1951. James Stewart, the strong, misunderstood hero of that film, gave an equally excellent performance well supported by Marlene Dietrich and Glynis Johns.  I must have first seen it when I was about seven. It impressed me then and later when I saw it on television as an adult. If you are as old as I, you might remember it. I am willing to bet that someone fifty-five years from now will be recalling Jodie Foster's powerful performance in Flightplan just as I now remember James Stewart's.

Neil Turner
February 13, 2006