Plane (Review): Too Good for a January Release

I didn’t plan to watch any films this January– AKA Hollywood’s dumping ground for poor entertainment. But I ended up seeing Plane. So here are my thoughts…

Captain Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler) and his passenger plane crew are diverted into a storm on New Year’s. They crash land in a hostile environment with no working radio, or weapons. And they must survive against violent revolutionaries whilst search and rescue operations locate their plane.

My expectations were non-existent for this one. But that probably helped in the end, ’cause I had a fun time with Plane. I didn’t even know the basic premise, so the story actually surprised me with its escalation.

The first act begins competently, with a concrete goal: Captain Torrance aims to meet his daughter for New Year’s, after he completes his routine flight. Characters are introduced quickly. And exposition is delivered in mostly organic ways. Yet they had the foresight to abstain from unnecessary details, like detailing the prisoner’s backstory, until it was more relevant. This allowed the audience to focus up on what was most important, and get into the main characters’ minds (would this prisoner be a problem? They don’t know and neither do we).

SIDE NOTE: Here’s a fun drinking game for this film: take a shot every time someone mentions it’s New Year’s… It comes up a ridiculous amount of times.

I deeply appreciated the way Plane let its authority figures be professionals. They obviously struggle with the gravity of their situation– just not in front of the passengers. ‘Cause they know it’s their job to stay cool under pressure and keep their charges hopeful.

Brodie, as the Captain, takes things one step further: he only ever starts to break down when he’s alone– so his crew can look to him for hope. Gerard Butler is a shining example of stoicism here. Leads in movies often don’t behave this way anymore. Most put their own emotional fragility above their duty and, in so doing, lose the audience’s respect (though characters in these films often forgive them their outbursts, which creates a disconnect between the film world and our own).

Mike Colter is a great foil for Butler as Louis Gaspare. His backstory as a prisoner convicted of homicide sets him up as a wild card amongst the passengers. Colter’s character speaks more through his actions than words. Gaspare’s brutality can be used as an asset to the crew, or used against them. But nobody trusts him. Gaspare’s true loyalty is a mystery which unfolds for Plane‘s first half.

I loved how all the titled plane’s crew have a role once they crash (and the guys at the airline’s head office). No support character was wasted. Each has a moment to shine.

The passengers, however, aren’t that important. They’re really just there as plot devices: “Oh no! All these innocents are in danger, and must be saved.” Though they help ground the world in a recognizable reality. There’s a couple entitled jerks who make things harder on everyone, a few people who panic, and even a guy chronicling the fiasco for his social media.

But I was impressed that these glorified extras weren’t especially stupid. They mostly knew when to back off, shut up, and do as they were told. Only one or two of them made ridiculous decisions which put the group in danger– and even those made some sense in context (SOMEBODY would try what they tried).

I found it funny, however, that the make-up of passengers was ideal for this situation. All of them (that I saw) were relatively young, able-bodied, and of average intelligence. The fact no burdens walked among them was a convenient happenstance which made the heroes’ job easier.

Brodie’s daughter was effectively useless– except for one scene. Her main function was to remind us of Brodie’s reason to fight and make it home alive. But she didn’t actually make me care for him more. Butler ingratiated himself to me just fine. So the daughter scenes mostly just kill the flow.

That said: Plane is generally well-paced. Its action gradually and believably crescendos, then tapers off at the perfect time. The only parts of the film which slightly dragged were the initial crash landing, some of the final fights, and those aforementioned scenes with the daughter. Everything else was reasonably relevant and engaging.

Plane features shockingly grounded, brutal fight scenes! The first one made me sit up in my seat and go “Hold on, this is actually good.” Without getting into spoilers, I was impressed at how much of the fight featured grappling rather than fisticuffs. It felt like how people in a life-or-death, bare-knuckle brawl would actually try to kill each other.

And Plane has one of the most badass sniping sequences I’ve ever seen! I can’t tell you if the rifles are actually that powerful, but I’ll tell ya: I wouldn’t wanna be on the receiving end of one.

The geography of Plane‘s action wasn’t always clear. But the character’s goals and relative placements within the scenes were close enough that I didn’t care. The frantic edits actually immersed me in the chaos instead of sapped my attention for a change.

What makes the fights and much of Plane work is how its script handles major plot points. Every scene features a new problem to over-come– many of which logically extend from the last. So moments between tension are few and far between, which helps keeps the audience’s focus.

Characters also weren’t superheroes. Nobody felt invulnerable or overly competent for their skill level. They were just regular (or above average) folks tossed into a poor situation.

NOTE: My biggest complaint about the action is the plane itself, which basically WAS a superhero. I dunno if a hull can realistically take so many bullets.

Bolstering the well-choreographed and shot action were visceral VFX. These were convincingly rendered and appeared practical (or were just exceptionally blended CGI). Even the plane looked good!

Plane looked to be shot with a hand-held cameras for most of its scenes. These are often distracting and over-used. But Plane shows restraint, with a non-flashy style that’s confident, serviceable, and conveys its ideas well.

Plane doesn’t seem too heady in terms of themes or allegory. The most biting commentary I could find was the idea that cheap corporations can endanger society to save their bottom line. Plane‘s other themes are more positive, but I won’t get into them because they’re spoilery.

Plane is a simple yet effective action flick. You may not remember it for long, but Plane doesn’t overstay its welcome, and it offers engaging entertainment for its couple hours. The film-makers mined this premise for its maximum potential.

So Plane is Worth a Watch (unless you’re already terrified of air travel).

What are your recommendations for other action/ survival films? What did you think of Plane? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!

Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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