Flightplan

Jodie Foster is kidnapped by a Hollywood studio and forced to share screen time with a monstrously huge state-of-the-art 474 commercial airplane. She is also forced to do all the acting in one of the lamest psychological thrillers to come along in a while. Kyle (Jodie Foster) is living in Berlin with her husband and daughter Julia, and is some sort of high-tech engineer who, in a coincidence remarkably helpful to the plot, knows all about the new 474s. Her husband has just died under mysterious circumstances, and she, along with her daughter, are flying back to New York with corpse, which is being shipped on the same flight in a high-tech casket with a digital lock. The casket, again fortuitously for the plot, comes equipped with a keypad and can be opened by punching in the correct secret code.

Once on the plane, Julia disappears, necessitating a series of thorough searches of the airplane. Although nearly 500 passengers are crammed into their seats and narrow aisles, the 474’s "attic" and "basement," cargo wells and nose cone turn out to have as much space as a fully inflated zeppelin. As Kyle repeatedly insists on more and more searches, she becomes every air traveler’s nightmare—the psycho passenger acting out at 40,000 feet. In fact, no one else on the plane nor the film’s cinematographers, it seems, have ever actually seen the alleged daughter. Kyle is suspect.

After a while (as the audience begins to feel the film has been shot in "real time," and will last as long as an actual flight from Berlin to New York), suspicions get scattered about. Kyle demonizes a cluster of "Arab-looking" passengers. Kyle demonizes the plane’s captain (Sean Bean). Kyle demonizes air marshal Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard). Oddly, only Carson continues to find credence in Kyle’s implausible insistence that Julia is real and is really somewhere on the plane. Why is that?

Flightplan is packed with enough crates of red herring to feed a starving city. It pits two primary characters against each other—a stone-faced airplane and a weepy-stoic mother who flip-flops between a Sigourney Weaver wannabe (Alien this isn’t) and warmed-over Sally Field (as in Not Without My Daughter). This movie has Big Lots remainder bin written all over it. And there are some real mysteries here: Why is Peter Sarsgaaard deliberately trying to terminate his acting career? Are Jodie Foster’s personal finances really so bad that she is willing to play the star attraction on this cheesy carnival midway ride that passes as a movie? Oh, and one more mystery, what is the purpose of deliberately misspelling "flight plan" as one word? This movie needs not only a spell-checker, but a plot-checker as well.

Les Wright