I have to admit I'm not familiar with director Robert Schwentke's work prior to Flightplan. Of course I'm more than familiar with Jodie Foster's outings so I was intrigued to see what this thriller would produce.
From the off we have Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) deeply depressed, leaving Germany with her young daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston) to return to her native America with the body of her recently deceased husband in tow. They board one of the planes her ex husband helped design and for which she helped design the engines. Snuggling down for take off both Kyle and Julia solemnly observe the casket of their dead husband/father being brought on board and into the hold.
On awakening Kyle finds that Julia is nowhere to be seen. Apparently she has left her seat and wandered off, Kyle sets off to search the all too limited space onboard the airliner in search of her daughter. When she cannot be found in the usual places Kyle then starts to panic. Couples with the loss of her husband she goes through turmoil now facing the possible abduction of her daughter. Relating all of this to the crew eventually the captain decides, in the interests of protocol and safety that the crew help the search.
Not locating her anywhere on board the crew check the manifest, only to find that Kyle boarded alone. No one remembers Kyle's daughter and even when asked to produce boarding passes Kyle can only find the one in her pocket. Kyle is ultimately detained by the on board air-marshal. Is Kyle on the verge of a nervous breakdown or the centre of a devious plot against her?
Jodie Foster yet again breaks into the claustrophobic thriller she portrayed more than adequately for Panic Room. Here she presents her performance well enough, as you would expect from an actor of her calibre. Supporting roles are suitably strong with a more than impressive Sean Bean as the commanding captain of the aircraft. The premise of the story is a great starting point; how can a child, or anyone for that matter, suddenly disappear at 30,000 feet. It is because of this that when the crew question Kyle's sanity the viewer starts the questioning also.
The claustrophobic nature of the environment is perfectly handled with use of tight narrow shots and dark foreboding lighting. All this is well and good but Flightplan ultimately fails. Although the actors are respectable enough, the initial storyline is presentable and the execution in terms of direction is more than up to the task what lets this feature down is the ongoing, entwining script. It's just not plausible to any real degree. It relies on far too many coincidences for it to work on any intelligent or coherent level. All too often during this film I was sitting thinking... "Surely not!"
What should have been a tense thriller turns out to be a rather drab affair that lacks any sort of focus. Could the air-marshal loose Kyle as he does, could he not in fact restrain her slight figure when needed? If this is the state of security on aircraft these days then I certainly will be taking a cruise on my next holiday. For good measure Schwentke injects a couple of Arab passengers into the mix, all of who look at each other in suspicious ways. Are these people responsible in some way for Julia's disappearance or are they there just for a 9/11 after-effect. Either way they stick out like a sore thumb and their use was clichéd beyond belief.
On a positive note I have spoken to people who have loved this film, including my partner. These people have tended to be women and I'm not for one minute suggesting here that they're all blonde. They have enjoyed this film, as they enjoyed Panic Room, for the motherly fear which comes across if you loose one of your offspring. It's good that Flightplan has an audience who will appreciate it, unfortunately however I just couldn't.