Director: Robert Schwentke
Cast: Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Kate Beahan, Erika Christensen, Michael Irby and Sean Bean
Plot: Kyle Pratt (Foster) and her daughter go on a flight, only for the daughter to vanish without a trace.
After 9/11, flights has suddenly become a very scary prospect. The method of transport was suddenly the perfect blend of claustrophobia, tension and proximity to strangers that creates hysteria and panic. Or in Robert Schwentke’s eyes, it became the perfect set-piece to make a thriller.
There is something very Hitchcockian about Flightplan. Our lead heroine, Kyle Pratt, goes on a flight with her daughter and wakes up halfway through the flight to realise that her daughter has gone missing. At first, it is a case of mild panic. Foster plays the horrified mother, pulse racing at her absence of her daughter, but still aware that this is most likely a case of a wandering child and in a few minutes, they would be laughing at how scared she had got, when her daughter popped to the bathroom in the middle of the night. However, the panic slowly evolves into a very real fear. Schwentke’s patient unravelling of the premise is a wonderful thing to watch, as we begin to realise just what danger the characters are in. There isn’t so much a shock twist as a gradual realisation of how deep this case of a missing daughter goes. The first suggestion of problems come when the daughter isn’t included on the flight itinerary. Surely the cock-up of a tired hostess, caught up in the routine of her profession? Or is there a conspiracy at play, where Ms. Pratt is the pawn in someone’s deadly game? Or perhaps, as the story gives us shock development after development, Ms. Pratt isn’t in the right frame of mind when it comes to her daughter.
And this is where the brilliance of Schwentke’s direction and story-telling prowess comes in. We begin to believe that our narrator to this story, Jodie Foster’s excellent portrayal of a desperate mother who could be borderline crazy, is unreliable. Perhaps the introduction to Flightplan isn’t what we thought it was, because of a mental instability. Everyone is put on the suspicion of the audience. The flight crew are being difficult, but it is hard to blame them, when Ms. Pratt begins getting in the way of their jobs. Perhaps the laziness of the hostesses are more than incompetent, but malice! The Middle-East card is cleverly played, too relevant a topic to not bring up in a movie about terrified passengers on a plane. However, the piece de resistance of the movie is easily Foster’s descent into madness and the clever writing really makes us start to believe that we are watching an anti-mystery thriller. Maybe there is no mystery at all, but an imaginary one created by an unhinged woman who has just lost her family.
The set-up is much more controlled than the climax. It isn’t a bad resolution, by any means, but as is often the case with twist-driven thrillers like Flightplan, the questions are much more fun than the answers. The twist is a relatively good one and it isn’t the kind of ‘write-yourself-out-of-a-corner’ rubbish that some thrillers come up with. It makes sense and provides a good excuse for a tasty finale to sink our teeth into. However, you cannot help but think that the material doesn’t really let the film go anywhere else. It had to be that certain twist in a way. As the film winds to a close, you have to admit to yourself that the best parts of Flightplan were the moments where you didn’t have a clue what was going on.
Final Verdict: Flightplan is a great thriller, but the build-up is much more entertaining than the resolution.