'Plane' Is a Smooth Ride, Destination: Fun Directed by Jean-François Richet
Starring Gerard Butler, Mike Colter, Yoson An, Daniella Pineda, Paul Ben-Victor, Remi Adeleke, Joey Slotnick, Evan Dane Taylor, Claro de los Reyes, Tony Goldwyn
Published Jan 12, 2023Joining the fine echelon of to-the-point-one-word disaster movies, à la Twister and Volcano, is Gerard Butler's latest, Plane. A typical plane-crash-turned-hostage-extraction-mission kind of picture, Plane has a simple premise that it delivers on in a perfectly serviceable manner. There are no big surprises in the film, nor are there any particular big swings — a straightforward thriller that does its job, no more, no less.
As pilot Brodie Torrance, Butler once again takes up the mantle as the everyman hero. Rushing through an airport terminal, Brodie is set to fly from Singapore to Tokyo to Honolulu, reuniting with his daughter in time for New Year's Eve. He and co-pilot Samuel Dele (Yoson An) are informed that a storm is currently in their flight path but should pass by the time they are due to fly through it. Brodie suggests an alternative route, which is shot down in favour of saving mileage, gas and time.
Trailblazer Airlines Flight 119 has only 14 passengers on board, including a couple vacation-bound zoomers, snippy businessmen, and young couples excited for a romantic getaway. Throwing a proverbial wrench into this seemingly routine journey is the addition of Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter), an accused murderer who is being transported by the FBI.
With that built-up tension, it may be expected that our quippy pilot will need to keep a wary eye on Louis — but alas, the handcuffed prisoner isn't at the heart of the plane drama. In spite of Brodie's assurance to his passengers that "these planes are pretty much indestructible," as the plane flies into the eye of the storm, which has not passed them by as promised, a lightning strike cuts the power. Brodie is forced to make an emergency crash landing on the first available road he spots.
Unfortunately for everyone on board, they have landed in Jolo, a war-torn island in the Philippines run by anti-government militia. In an effort to separate Louis from the other passengers, Brodie volunteers the two of them to search the island for help. While they are away, the militia are made aware of the group's presence and take the remaining members hostage.
There are some great kill shots and other moments of crowd-pleasing violence that make Plane an absolute romp, but the film's biggest takeaway is the ease at which Butler steers the ship (er, plane). The role of Brodie is tailored well towards Butler's strengths: Scottish and dryly humoured with a penchant for the heroics. It's a character he knows well and has played convincingly in a number of films.
There's a self-awareness to Butler's performance that serves the film and audiences very well; he knows exactly what type of movie this is and what is needed of him to optimize our entertainment. He's a steady presence in a formulaic film, who guides us through the plot, knowing exactly what beats to hit and when, doing so with precision. I say this with the greatest sincerity: maybe it's time we give credit to Butler for what he offers, regardless of how singular that may be.
In a month filled with awards chatter and shiny glitz, films like Plane and actors like Butler provide a much needed tonic for audiences unconcerned with Hollywood's manufactured pomp and circumstance. Sure, some of the flight sequences are poorly shot using miniature models, and yes, the story is thin and the dialogue lacking; but dammit, Plane sure is a fun ride. (Cineplex Pictures)