Until you think about it, which nobody recommends, “Plane” is about as mediocre as a generic action film can be. Unless you dig just a little bit, which is contraindicated by most medical professionals, Gerard Butler’s latest Liam Neeson imitation is almost impossibly neutral cinema. Up until you ask the most basic of questions, which should be seen as a cry for help, the whole experience can just fade into you, as Mazzy Star has long begged.
But if you do happen to think about how they callously portrayed the primary Black character in the film as a criminal who fled from justice without any further explanation… If you dig just a little into how every woman in the film is either killed or cast aside… If you ask whether, given horrible anti-Asian sentiments that exploded after COVID, it is maybe not the best time to present a nebulous Eastern region as having whole islands full of monstrous murderers… The whole thing comes apart like holiday airline travel plans.
Do I think that director Jean-François Richet woke up and said “I cannot wait to make a bigoted super-dad movie!” Nah. Do I think that writers JP Davis and Charles Cumming set out to massively underwrite every character and make armed international mercenaries like Blackwater look cool? I hope not. Do I think that “Plane” is so inadequate as to allow for all of these problems to arise? You’re cleared for takeoff.
Here’s what happens: Brodie Torrance (Butler) is a pilot who has been relegated to crappy assignments after he justifiably choked out an unruly passenger shortly after his wife died. Dead women and sweaty grappling are two things “Plane” really loves. On New Year’s Eve, while trying to get home to his daughter, Brodie flies into bad weather and crashes on an island near the Philippines that is apparently exclusively inhabited by baddies who love taking hostages. Lucky for El Capitan, a stone-cold assassin dude happened to be on his flight.
Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter) was being extradited to America on a commercial airline, presumably because someone out there remembered the events of “Con Air.” He is accused of murder, which he admits, but does add that he has a whole different side to his story. That side is never presented. Thus, audiences are left with hoping that maybe he killed someone who deserved it, like an NFT trader or someone who writes mattress ads for podcasts. Brodie and Louis team up to free the passengers from the terrorists, and no one in the whole film gets to show any personality or say anything interesting ever.
Seriously, all dialogue is hyper-functional. Your liver will implode if you take a shot every time someone asks Brodie if he’s okay during the last 20 minutes. At that point, he has been beaten, shot twice, and looks like Dwayne Johnson’s least favorite gym sock. No, he’s not okay. But it’s all anyone can ask because anything more would require having a character deeper than “Human man,” “Human woman,” or “Person of color who kills people.”
Many people have laughed at the title for this film. “Plane” is, unquestionably, a profoundly stupid name. It is also all that was available. This script does not operate with adjectives. You cannot find a defining moment or characteristic. I tried to think of a better name while watching it, and I truly, genuinely couldn’t. Insofar as a movie’s title is supposed to reflect the film, it absolutely nails it. “Plane” is a lazy attempt to grab your attention that is too stupid to understand the problems it contains.
Grade = D
Other Critical Voices to Consider
Siddhant Adlakha at IGN says “It would be one thing if this were the basis for a farcical, blood-soaked beat-‘em-up with ridiculous stylings, but ‘Plane’ stays grounded for the most part, making these racial optics even harder to avoid the few times the movie does try to indulge in gleeful violence.”
Kate Sánchez at But Why Tho? says “Absurd, loud, and the best parts of 90s action films, ‘Plane’is just a damn good time.”
Louisa Moore at Screen Zealots says “I had a great time watching ‘Plane,’ even if it is the type of movie that I probably won’t remember seeing by the time 2024 rolls around.”