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FLIGHTPLAN by Robert Schwentke

flightplan After the death of her husband, Kyle Pratt (!) (Jodie Foster) moves back from Berlin to the United States with her little daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston) at her side and the coffin in the cargo hold of the largest passenger airplane of the world – a two-story, hypermodern plane which Kyle knows perfectly well – she is a jet-propulsion engineer and was involved in the design of this plane. Kyle has not yet fully accepted the death of her husband, and six-year old Julia still has to understand she will never see her father again.
Soon after the take-off Kyle falls asleep – and when she wakes up, Julia is not there. Kyle starts looking for her, asking passengers and flight attendents if they have seen her little daughter, but nobody has noticed a little girl walking away.
Worse, nobody even remembers seeing Julia at all! Kyle insists the crew searches for Julia, and she can convince Captain Rich (Sean Bean) to order a thorough search of the airplane – but Julia remains disappeared. It seems she was not even on the passenger list, and investigations back in Berlin result in a shocking revelation: according to the hospital, Julia died together with her father!
Is Kyle going insane? Is she so traumatized by the death of her family that she just imagined travelling with Julia? That’s what the Captain, the crew, the Air Marshal (Peter Sarsgaard) and the other passengers think, but Kyle is sure her daughter is on the plane and has been kidnapped. Was the passenger list manipulated? Are the crew and the passengers involved? Are there terrorists on board and is the plane in danger? Kyle is determined to find out and to find her daughter.

******** SPOILER WARNING ******** ********* SPOILER WARNING ***********

The trailer seems to promise a psychological thriller a la Hitchcock or M. Night Shyalaman – is Julia dead or alive, was she ever on board of the plane or not, that seems to be the question.
But this plot is underdeveloped and unconvincing – you never really believe that Julia is just on board in Kyle’s imagination. You just wonder what’s up with those knowing glances the crew and the passengers exchange as soon as Kyle starts looking for Julia. Are these glances a hint for the audience of a conspiracy going on (Kyle strangeley never seems to notice them) or just bad acting?
This put aside, Jodie Foster is superb and convincing as wife in mourning and as anxious mother, keeping it just slightly this side of hysteria. The same can be said about Sean Bean – if you ever happen to be on a plane in trouble, you wish to have a flight captain like him. Peter Sarsgaard’s air marshal however seems to be just very sleepy.
When it’s clear for Kyle (and the audience) that Julia has really been kidnapped, the plot moves into a more conventional direction – it’s DIE HARD, or maybe PANIC ROOM, on a plane, with Jodie Foster – and another complicately constructed and implausible sinister plan on a plane – a bit like RED EYE, but less entertaining. Which is a problem, because the ‘psychological thriller’ aspect fails, and what’s left is lots of serious drama, the constructed plot, and a serious lack of humor (in fact, there is only one slightly funny scene when a passenger is immediately convinced Kyle is right when she suspects some Arabs are involved in the kidnapping of Julia and is ready to assault them on the spot). This and some other slapped-on allusions on 9/11 feel just like that – slapped-on without contributing to the story.
When you want to see just one airplane-thriller this year, watch FLIGHTPLAN for serious drama and Jodie Foster, but watch RED EYE when you are looking for entertainment!

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