‘Plane’ Review: “Good Enough”
Gerard Butler deserves his flowers. For the past decade or so, the actor’s steadfast commitment to pumping out genre movies no other actor would touch has kept the mid-budget film alive. Sometimes, this results in some gems: Greenland, Copshop, or the cult-classic-in-the-making Olympus Has Fallen trilogy for example. Then, there’s your Geostorms and your Gods of Egypts. Plane lands somewhere smack dab in the middle.
Its ludicrously simple title begets a fittingly simple premise. While transporting a prisoner (Mike Colter) on an otherwise commercial flight, Captain Brodie Torrance (Butler) is forced to land in a suspect region of the Philippines after his aircraft takes the brunt of a thunderstorm. With most of the crew/passengers unharmed, Torrance faces a new challenge in the local separatists who run the island. The separatists take the passengers, leaving Torrance to team up with the prisoner and find some way to rescue the passengers and get off the island. Screenwriters Charles Cumming and J.P. Davis play this thing straight as can be, providing the barest skeleton for the rest of the film to build upon. After all, they’re not providing much in the way of characterization.
Brodie Torrance doesn’t have much to him. He’s a man who wants to get home to his daughter. Tried-and-true or tired? I’ll leave that to you to decide. The prisoner, Louis Gaspare, gets even less backstory or motivation. It’s as if the filmmakers were scared to imbue him with too much humanity otherwise they might accidentally end up doing something subversive. I kid, it’s clear as they day that they simply needed a good foil to the character of Torrance. For their part, Butler and Colter both have enough charisma to make these two characters watchable. The same cannot be said for the supporting cast or the villain, both nondescript and barely a factor unless needed in the plot.
Akin to a trusty old car with a lot of miles on it, Plane gets you where you’re going. You’re just gonna have to deal with its parts being a little creaky. Director Jean-François Richet is competent enough to never make the audience want to check their watch too much. The film has a decent sense of forward momentum that drives things forward. When Richet wants to blow things up real good and spill a little blood, there’s a great kill or action beat. Shot in a clear sheen by Brendan Galvin, Plane gets from point A to point B with the mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The sum of its parts adds up to what it should be: nothing more, nothing less.
That notion leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Although the idea of a straightforward, mid-budget action thriller coming out in theaters in 2023 entices, why does it have to feel like such a paycheck? Audiences are easy marks for these simple concept, high-octane kinds of flicks. So why not really hook ’em and keep ’em talking about it for a bit afterward? Because, frankly, Plane runs down the checklist. It does the bare minimum of what it needs to fulfill its concept and the tenets of entertainment, then sees itself out. Plane is content with being good enough. That’s fine. Sure. – James Preston Poole
Plane is now playing in theaters.