Synopsis – A pilot finds himself caught in a war zone after he’s forced to land his commercial aircraft during a terrible storm.
My Take – Though he is often not counted along with his contemporaries, there is no denying of the fact Gerard Butler, despite mostly picking up bad-to-middling choices, has managed to carve quite a nice niche for himself in the mid budgeted action thriller genre ever since he broke out worldwide with his role as King Leonidas in Zack Snyder‘s 300 (2006).
These certain type of films are quite simple in concept, mostly interchangeable, and see Gerard Butler trying to save the day in a high-intensity thrill ride. His latest, directed by Jean-François Richet (Assault on Precinct 13), too continues this fun tradition.
Working as a call back to 90’s and early 2000 action flicks, with team ups, hostages, terrorists and a lot of sneaking around thrown in, the film finds Butler firmly in John McClane mode, playing a pilot trying to get home in time for New Years for a long overdue reunion with his daughter.
Yes, it’s constructed entirely out of familiar parts, without a single groundbreaking or original element. But thankfully, the film is able to fly above its generic ground by not trying to be anything more than what it is, a decent action thriller.
That’s not to say the story, written by Charles Cumming and J.P. Davis, doesn’t deliver on the spectacle though. An uncut hand-to-hand action scene and some fun shootouts here and there, the film packs in enough of a punch where you can sit in your seat and be entertained by seeing Gerard Butler doing what he does best, in absurd, loud form.
The story follows Captain Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler), a pilot who just wants to get to Hawaii to spend time with his daughter, Daniela (Haleigh Hekking), on New Year’s Eve. However, his plans are thwarted when he is forced to make an emergency landing of the commercial flight he is flying, carrying 14 passengers, due to the bad hit the plane took during a storm.
Though, his copilot Samuel Dele (Yoson An) and attendant Bonnie (Daniella Pineda) completely support his decision, matters get worse when they learn that the island that he has crash landed on, somewhere in the Philippines, is ruled by a vicious militia, who soon takes everyone hostage.
Sensing the responsibility that it his job to keep the passengers safe, Brodie teams up with Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter), a passenger who was being extradited on charges of homicide, to save everyone and find a safe passage for everyone to go home.
Though the stakes are high, the film does occasionally teeter into the realm of predictability, thankfully, director Jean-François Richet wisely paces the film in such a way that the characters have tangible time to breathe and take in what’s happening between bursts of frantic action. He allows his actors’ time with lengthy shots to display the emotion their characters ought to feel.
While it would be a stretch to call the film gritty, it takes its time establishing the bona fides of the flight crew getting certain details right that will inevitably pay off later. The camera doesn’t linger over the dire consequences of the crash, instead moving quickly to the tale of the captain versus the captors.
With a brisk 107 minutes runtime, there’s a sense of momentum that’s refreshing in an age of close to three-hour blockbusters. This one is not an overly ambitious film. Like the title, it knows what it wants to do and gets the job done. It would be overselling things to describe what Butler and Colter have as a bromance. Instead there’s a begrudging atmosphere of practicality.
After the landing, while there is some carping from the token disgruntled passengers, the film avoids the trap of getting into any of the personalities involved. We are spared extensive background stories that would bog down the action. This goes for the crew as well. There is no unnecessary drama such as survivor’s infighting, drawn-out mistrust, or incompetent officials.
There are elements of that, but when the situation gets dire, characters put aside their personal feelings and act to survive, and I appreciated that. It shows the director wasn’t going to waste any time and instead focused on the fact that the island is filled with bad guys, who have taken the civilians and now Butler must find them and kill them.
However certain aspects are under-cooked. Not to mention, the militia being a bunch of generic bad guys who have no other objective than killing someone, especially their leader Datu Junmar (Evan Dane Taylor), who is too vicious for his own good. The film also packs in some pretty rough visuals, which just brings you out from the experience at times.
Yet as one would expect, a major reason anyone for anyone to watching this film is Gerard Butler. Whose charisma carries the whole thing, and is superb in his role as the beleaguered captain. Unlike the usual reckless characters he plays, Butler even shows Brodie be reluctant to kill the baddies if he doesn’t have to.
Mike Colter (Luke Cage) gets enough time to revel in the spotlight. Since he is playing a convict, there is a nice redeeming layer to him, even though the film never really goes too deep into his past which also goes for every other character present here. In supporting roles, Tony Goldwyn, Yoson An and Daniella Pineda manage to leave good impact. On the whole, ‘Plane’ is a decent popcorn thriller that absolutely entertains from beginning to end.
Directed – Jean-François Richet
Starring – Gerard Butler, Mike Colter, Daniella Pineda
Rated – R
Run Time – 107 minutes