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Flightplan is a must-see

By Lady Liberty
web posted September 26, 2005


** 1/2 out of ****

FlightplanI like Jodie Foster. No matter the movie, her performance is never less than stellar. I didn't need to know much more about Flightplan than that she was starring in it to induce me to buy a ticket, though some early and reasonably good critical reviews didn't hurt.

In Flightplan, an emotionally distraught Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) is traveling from Berlin to New York with her six year-old daughter, Julia (Marlene Lawston) and the body of her recently deceased husband, David. Despite the trauma of sudden widowhood, Kyle has to be strong for Julia who, since her father died in an accidental fall, is scared of almost everything. With a little coaxing, Kyle manages to get Julia aboard the huge double-decker plane that will take them back to the US without incident. Exhausted after several days of grief, the pair take advantage of some empty seats to take a nap. When Kyle awakens, though, Julia is nowhere to be seen.

Kyle assumes the little girl has wandered off to play with other children, or is perhaps in the bathroom. But a quick search fails to locate the child, and Kyle starts to panic. Fiona (Erika Christensen), a young stewardess in training, tries to help but is rapidly out of her depth with a panicking mother. Stephanie (Kate Beahan), who has far more experience dealing with passengers, tries to calm Kyle to no avail. Eventually, Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard), an on board air marshall, steps forward. With Carson's cooperation as well as that of the pilot (Sean Bean), a thorough search for the missing girl is mounted.

Although it's impossible that a child could be removed from a plane that's flying at 37,000 feet, no one can find any sign of the girl. Worse, no one remembers Kyle boarding with a child in the first place. To her growing horror, Kyle is effectively told that she's only imagining that her daughter was ever on the plane in the first place. Worse, she begins to wonder if those who are saying so aren't right.

Once again, Jodie Foster performs to her usual high caliber, effectively proving yet again that her two Oscar wins were well deserved and that there are probably more to come. Those awards, though, won't likely be for this movie. While she's absolutely terrific, the movie itself falls just short of typical Oscar-winning formulae. Another actor I'm rapidly coming to admire is Peter Sarsgaard. His portrayal of the doubting but compassionate air marshall is very, very good. Though Lawston is all big eyes and plaintive voice in the person of Julia, a shell-shocked little girl might very well behave in such a one-dimensional manner. The supporting cast is entirely competent, but kudos go to Sean Bean and Kate Beahan for their good performances.

The storyline has some originality despite its somewhat familiar overtones; the script has some nice twists that suspense fans will appreciate. The direction (handled by Robert Schwentke) is good; the editing is even better (one of the best edits I've seen since the original Highlander is a particular standout during the early hours of the flight). Yet despite the competence of all of the film's parts and pieces, I was never quite as vested in the characters as I should have been to get the full impact of all of a mother's panic and a movie's suspense. Make no mistake: Flightplan is a good movie. I just think it could have been better.

POLITICAL NOTES: There are a couple of Arabic men aboard the international flight depicted in the movie, and at one point, some suspicion falls on them. When Pratt is told that the men can't be questioned without concrete cause, she responds that she doesn't care about being politically correct. Good for her! Though racial profiling based solely on prejudicial feelings is wrong, racial targeting based on suspect descriptions is simply sensible police work (As an aside, there are a few brief clips of an almost military security presence at the Berlin airport, but there's nothing overt concerning security measures taken prior to passenger loading.)

FAMILY SUITABILITY: Flightplan is rated PG-13 for "violence and some intense plot material." Because there's so much question as to what happened to a six year-old child, I'd suggest that young children not see this movie. Children old enough to know that what they see onscreen isn't real, though, will be fine. There is violence, but it's not graphic; there is intensity, but it never gets to the point where any but the most sensitive well dwell on it or suffer from it afterward. Flightplan would make a good family movie for those families with kids of say, 10 or so and up; it would make a fine date movie for mature teens who enjoy some drama and suspense; and it's a must-see for Jodie Foster fans.

Lady Liberty is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at ladylibrty@ladylibrty.com.

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