Review by Sean Boelman
If there has been one absolute truth for the past few months, it is that any time a trailer for the film Plane showed in theaters, at least one person — if not the entire theater — would erupt in laughter at the title. Although the film isn’t as bad as the title would imply, it’s just as lazy as one would expect.
The film follows the crew and passengers of a commercial plane as they fight for survival following an emergency landing on an island in the Philippines run by violent separatists. If you’re expecting there to be more to the movie — there absolutely isn’t. What you see is what you get.
Thankfully, the film moves at an extremely quick pace. The first ten minutes or so do the setup before we are thrown straight into the plane malfunctioning. And it doesn’t take long once we reach the island for the action to begin. It’s very far-fetched and requires a lot of suspension of disbelief, but hey, who comes to a Gerard Butler action movie expecting to think?
For the most part, the action is relatively generic gunplay. The climactic action sequence does have a few really awesome moments — including a few that will elicit an audible reaction from the audience — but much of the film feels like it’s holding back. And the plane crash/turbulence sequences resort to so much camera trickery that they’re distracting, not suspenseful.
As is the case with many action movies set in foreign countries and directed by white men, xenophobia is a serious issue here. The few Filipino characters who do get lines aren’t given names — and every major Filipino character is violent and evil. This is a case where there absolutely needed to be more Southeast Asian representation on the crew — and that could have also spiced up the action a bit. (Imagine a version of this directed by Indonesian filmmaker Timo Tjahjanto!)
That being said, it’s not like the heroic characters fare that much better. The only characters even given a backstory are Butler’s pilot and Coulter’s convict with a mysterious past, and even so, they’re about as paint-by-numbers as they come. All of the passengers are flat and archetypal, and the airline’s command center is only there to push the plot along.
Still, Butler and Coulter have some solid chemistry together and are the only things allowing this film to work. Butler is giving pretty much the same performance that he has in every mid-budget action movie this side of Olympus Has Fallen — but at least they’re letting him be Scottish this time. And Coulter is genuinely charming when he gets the chance to do some wise-cracks.
Ultimately, like much of the rest of Butler’s recent output, Plane is a film that would have been much better off had it stayed grounded. There is no denying that it has some entertaining moments, but its xenophobia and shallow treatment of its Filipino characters is unforgivable.
Plane hits theaters on January 13.