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May 12, 2006 |

By Miscellaneous | Film | May 12, 2006 |

For those of you who think that movie critics are assholes (and they are, trust me), along comes Flightplan, which reminds us all that there is one other profession even more loathsome than critic, lawyer, or insurance adjuster: The Flight Attendant. That bubbly, toothsome blond, or well-groomed closeted gay man who serves you peanuts and mixed drinks with a charming smile can also turn on you quicker than a rabid Kate Moss in need of a horse fix, putting on airs like he or she owns the goddamn plane, and unfairly withholding a 10th Heineken just because the airline movie, Cheaper by the Dozen, has you weeping like a little girl.

For you flight attendants not too busy sticking your nose in the air, answer me this: Do they teach you how to give that look of smug self-importance in flight attendant school, or were you just born with it? Because, most often, when a flight attendant is speaking to me, I have to remind myself that he or she is just a lounge waitress 32,000 feet in the air, lest I end up feeling like I’m four years old and I just got caught stealing the batteries from my mom’s “neck massager.” I daresay that there are few other professions in which you can be paid less than $40,000 a year, work 16-hour shifts, and still command the kind of power and respect that flight attendants can; and thank god for it, otherwise can you imagine flying cross-country in an unregulated airplane? It’d be like “Lord of the Flies” in a gravity defying tube, only Piggy would be played by a 40-year-old cell-phone plan salesman, hijacking the plane with a goddamn Power Point presentation. Flight Attendants of the World: I salute you.

What flight attendants have to do with the merits of Flightplan, however, is beyond me; but when you’re assigned to write 800 words about a movie with absolutely no originality, no coherent plot, nor anything particular interesting to say, you find yourself grasping for an angle. Personally, I prefer a less obvious, tenuously connected hook than say, writing about the marked similarities between Flightplan and Jodie’ Foster’s most recent big-screen failure Panic Room, which at least boasted the coolest credits in modern cinema.

The review: Jodie Foster plays Kyle Pratt, a propulsion engineer working in Germany who is flying back to New York with her daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston) and her husband, who is riding in the driver’s seat of a coffin in the back of the plane, compliments of a header off the couple’s apartment building. About half-way through the transatlantic flight, Kyle wakes up to find that her daughter has gone missing. At first, things are calm; she looks around casually, under seats, in bathrooms, and the occasional overhead bin. But when Julia fails to show up, and the pilot informs Kyle that Julia wasn’t even on the passenger manifest, the flight attendants have to kick that patronizing glare into overdrive and hopefully condescend Jodie Foster’s maniacally maternal character into submission. When the steely resolve fails to work, however, we find Jodie Foster taking advantage of all the extra leg room on the flight, running down aisles, kicking up a fuss with the flight crew, and all too obviously picking a bone with the two Arabs on board.

Meanwhile, German director Robert Schwentke has sense enough to remind us all that while all of this commotion is going on, we’re flying 30,000 feet up in the air over a large body of water, and there is a histrionic lady on the loose. So, even where the storyline is lame and ineffective, the dialogue ham-fisted, and the acting overcooked, Schwentke provides enough anxiety to at least allow us to feel like we are on the double-decker jet, and that we want it to land right fucking now so we can go home to our families and watch “Survivor.” In fact, when I wasn’t scoffing at the preposterousness of the whole premise, I actually found myself fidgeting feverishly, and most of that I won’t even attribute to the six cups of coffee running through my system; indeed, so high was my anxiety level near the end of the film, I actually had to stop myself from asking the theater’s aisle attendant to bring me another Heineken.

My own agitated state notwithstanding, it’s hard to recommend a film that provides a twist so expected that even the semi-retarded can predict it. There is a lot to be said for the film’s atmospherics, but otherwise, Flightplan is about as flat, overpriced, and ineffective as an airplane cocktail.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba and managing partner of its parent company, which prefers to remain anonymous for reasons pertaining to public relations. He lives in Ithaca, New York.

Flightplan / Dustin Rowles

Film | May 12, 2006 |



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