Halfway through Flightplan I told myself there was no way the filmmakers could keep it up. The setup for this movie absolutely kills, and I knew it had to fall apart sooner or later. I was right. The moment the third act reared its ugly head, the movie immediately went downhill.
Following the death of her husband, propulsion engineer Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) leaves Berlin and flies to America with her young daughter, Julia (Marlene Lawston). After boarding the newly developed E-474 aircraft, the largest commercial airliner in the world, Kyle and Julia stretch out for a nap. Kyle awakens to find her daughter missing. With the help of an air marshal named Carson (Peter Sarsgaard), Kyle convinces Captain Rich (Sean Bean) to have the flight crew conduct a thorough search of the plane. Julia is nowhere to be found. To make matters worse, the passenger manifest shows that Julia was never onboard the plane, and a phone call to the Berlin coroner's office reveals that Julia died in the same accident that killed her father. Despite the fact that everyone on the plane believes her to be crazy, under the influence of medication, or perhaps both, Kyle doggedly refuses to give up her frantic search.
As I mentioned above, the setup for Flightplan is masterfully handled. Director Robert Schwentke and writers Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray subtly establish plausibility for the idea that Julia never was on the plane, as well as giving credence to the possibility that Kyle has been driven to psychosis by her loss. But the moment the reality of what happened on the plane is divulged, the movie goes straight to hell, becoming more and more ridiculous before it finally offers up a stupid, crowd-pleasing finale that invites derision and laughter (the climax would have been fine had Kyle been played by Steven Seagal or Jean-Claude Van Damme). And not only is the last third of the movie unbelievably wrongheaded, what with Foster's character climbing into Avionics and disconnecting a series of handily labeled coaxial cables, it further undermines what has come before by giving you plenty of time to go back and think about the implausible nature of the whole thing. I'll admit that I was too wrapped up in the events of the first hour to question exactly how plausible they were while they unfolded, but I spent the last half hour questioning everything and thinking about the holes in the plot. It's really a shame to see a movie that begins so tightly constructed eventually come completely undone.
Despite the script's flaws, there's still much to admire about the Flightplan. Director Schwentke makes the most of the movie's elaborate aircraft set, managing to make the plane's interiors look both expansive and claustrophobic. The acting is first-rate across the board. Thom Noble's editing is topnotch, as is Florian Ballhaus's cinematography (must be some good genes in that family), and, in what is something of a surprise, James Horner's effective score doesn't seem to be recycled from elements of his previous works.
Flightplan is reportedly one of the first Buena Vista releases to utilize a BD-50 dual layer disc, as well as the first encoded with the VC-1 codec. The 2.35:1 transfer looks very good, although it's not without its flaws. There's a hint of softness in a few scenes, but it's nothing obtrusive, nor is it much of a surprise when you take into account the movie's lighting scheme. And one brief shot is practically swimming in grain, but considering the nature of the shot, this is probably unavoidable. Black levels are strong, colors are well saturated, and details are impressive.
Flightplan doesn't feature a go-for-broke sound design, but instead opts for a more subtle approach, one that perfectly suits the storytelling. Dialogue is generally anchored in the center channel, while ambient sounds tend to be isolated in various areas of the soundstage. The sound doesn't call attention to itself, which makes it all the more effective. There is some deep bass action, and the entire soundstage is engaged at a few points along the way (it wouldn't be a plane flick without some flyovers and screeching turbines). All of this is very well represented in both the Dolby Digital and uncompressed PCM 5.1 tracks, with the PCM track offering a slightly smoother, more natural sound. French and Spanish Dolby Digital tracks are also included, as are English, French, and Spanish subtitles.
The commentary from director Robert Schwentke is an extremely entertaining, informative track. I switched on the commentary immediately after finishing the movie itself, intending just to sample it and then come back later, but I found myself listening to it in its entirety. Easily one of the best commentaries I've heard in quite some time.
The Emergency Landing-Visual Effects featurette (7 minutes) covers the movie's CG, miniature, and pyrotechnics effects. This was originally presented as a segment in the In-Flight Movie documentary on the standard definition disc. Why the entire doc wasn't included is beyond me.
Cabin Pressure-Designing the Aalto E-474 (10 minutes) takes a look at the fictional aircraft featured in the movie, from the design of the plane itself to the creation of the set.
Jet Stream (2 minutes) is another in Disney's line of Blu-Scape short films. If you're looking for two minutes of HD footage of clouds, this will be right up your alley.
Give this one a rental. Just make sure you shut it off once the first hour is up.