Jodie Foster’s overwrought Flight Plan begins on a cold dark winter’s night in
I like thrillers fine, but this film suffers from comparison both with an obscure early Alfred Hitchcock film that it steals from—The Lady Vanishes, and with the more recent Red-Eye. Made back in 1938, The Lady Vanishes concerns a young woman, Iris Henderson, who befriends a sweet old lady named Mrs. Kroy on a train who later turns out to be a spy. Some other spies kidnap the old lady, and when Iris sounds the alarm that someone is missing, everyone on the train doesn’t remember the old woman mostly because many of them are in on the kidnapping. Eventually, Iris starts to doubt her own sanity until she notices the ghostly imprint of the woman’s name, Kroy, written by hand on the train window. If you substitute the daughter for the older woman, Flight Plan borrows the first half of the plot almost exactly. While Hitchcock knew how to lighten up his film’s suspense with eccentric British characters and moments of humor, the German director of Flight Plan, Robert Schwentke seems overwhelmed by studio pressure. He’s frightened of modulating the film’s tone, so Foster moves from grief-stricken to paranoid, anxious, and angry over her daughter’s disappearance without relief. The film never allows itself a moment to breathe, and I got annoyed with all of its cheap editing and camera techniques to try to get the audience caught up in Kyle’s motherly fear. The second half of the film also has a disquieting resemblance to the latter half of Red-Eye, so anyone who has seen the previous film can spot the pretensions of Flight Plan. For whatever reason,
Meanwhile, Jodie Foster, a talented actress and feminist action hero, storms up and down the Jumbo Jet in slow motion, raging against the exasperated crew, and fighting the air marshal, sleepy-eyed hunk Peter Sarsgaard. Kyle yells out things like “inaccurate passenger manifest,” turns off the lights, drops the air masks, and everyone gets annoyed with the delusional mother gone wacko. When it turns out that a funeral home director back in
If you like to feel tense, if you like sterile, cold, blue and black cinematography that emphasizes the indifference of technology, and if you like to see blue-eyed Jodie Foster contort herself into a human pretzel of anxiety, then you might like Flight Plan. I was hoping the daughter, Julia, would turn out to be an evil midget terrorist operating behind the scenes to hijack the jet for kicks, but no such luck.