Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // Unrated // $29.99 // January 24, 2006
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 19, 2006
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Graphical Version
The Movie:
Another claustrophobic thriller for Jodie Foster after director David Fincher's "Panic Room", "Flightplan" stars Foster as Kyle, the designer of a sleek new jumbo jet that seems like a small city in the air. As the film opens, she's about to fly in the plane that she helped create, as she's headed with her daughter from Berlin to the US in order to bury her husband.

Once aboard, Kyle goes to sleep, with daughter Julia in the next seat. When she wakes up, Julia has gone missing. The crew hasn't seen her and eventually, come to believe that Julia wasn't even aboard the plane. They certainly have their reasons: she wasn't even included on their passenger list and no sign of her is found on the plane.

Kyle enters panic mode, although finds herself trying to evade an increasingly suspicious group of flight attendants (lead by an enjoyably icy Erica Christensen), the pilot (Sean Bean) and the air marshal on board (Peter Sarsgaard). It's difficult to continue discussing the plot without giving anything else away, so I'll just say that Kyle must go about her search on her own, trying to figure out how her daughter could just vanish at 35,000 feet.

Directed by Robert Schwentke, "Flightplan" is enjoyably straightforward and glossy, as the picture looks stellar (cinematography is expertly handled by Florian Ballhaus, son of legendary cinematographer Michael Ballhaus) and, at a little over 90-minutes, the picture is trim and quick, moving along at an enjoyably steady clip. The film also works the angle of not knowing who we should believe quite wonderfully. This is a mystery/thriller that, up until the end, plays its cards well.

The performances are also marvelous. Foster is an outstanding dramatic actress, but with this picture and "Panic Room", her slow-boil intensity and physicality also proves her an absolutely flawless match for this sort of suspense picture, which I'd like to see her do more of. Although it's doubtful that this performance will be up for awards notice, it must be said that Foster's fierce, fantasic effort appears to use every last bit of energy the actress has within her. She's surrounded by a series of expert supporting efforts, especially Sarsgaard and Bean.

This is not a flawless picture, as it does have some plot holes and the final third is not as smooth a landing as you'd hope after the enjoyable opening and middle. Still, "Flightplan" looks stellar and Foster's performance is utterly riveting.


VIDEO: "Flightplan" is presented by Buena Vista Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation's image quality is generally terrific throughout the show. Sharpness and detail remain mostly stellar, although a few moments appear slightly softer than the rest.

Otherwise, the presentation remained mostly fine. Some minor shimmering was spotted, as were an artifact or two, but neither issue proved distracting. As expected from a new movie, no print flaws were spotted. The film's mostly subdued color palette appeared accurately presented, with no smearing or other concerns. Overall, while short of looking outstanding, this was still a solid effort.

SOUND: "Flightplan" is presented in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. The film's sound design is not an aggressive assault, but more a complex series of small details. The small sounds of the airplane - creaks here, an announcement there, chatter from the passengers, the occasional rumble of turbulence - are often and distinctly heard from the surrounds, which also reinforce James Horner's suitably suspenseful score. Audio quality is terrific, as sound effects, score and dialogue all seemed crystal clear and well-recorded. The DTS presentation seemed a bit more seamless and enveloping, and smaller details seemed a bit more crisply presented than in the Dolby Digital presentation.

EXTRAS: Director Robert Schwentke offers an excellent audio commentary for the feature. The commentary is certainly worth a listen, as Schwentke goes into an enjoyable degree of detail about the production, including pointing out some visual effects that I'd have never thought were effects. The director also chats about building sets, working with the actors, script changes and more. It's a solid track that provides a really in-depth discussion of the development and production of the film.

Additionally, we get the five-part "making of", called "The In-Flight Movie". The documentary is broken down into: A: "Security Checkpoint: Making of a Thriller", B: "Captain's Greeting: Meet the Director", C: "Passenger Manifest: Casting the Film", D: "Connecting Flights: Post-Production" and E: "Emergency Landing: Visual Effects". "Play All" results in a running time of about 38-1/2 minutes. The documentary is better than the usual promotional fare, and provides some insightful interviews and informative behind-the-scenes clips. Finally, we get the 10-minute doc "Cabin Pressure", which looks at creating the airplane set.

Note: do not watch any of the supplements prior to watching the movie, as they do include some major spoilers.

Final Thoughts: "Flightplan" does have some plot holes, but Jodie Foster's outstanding performance and strong direction help smooth over most, if not all, of the issues. Overall, while not flawless, I thought this was an involving and mostly solid thriller. The DVD presentation offers strong audio quality, fine video quality and a satisfying selection of supplements. Recommended.

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