For a film all about a commercial airline crashing on a wartorn island, Plane is surprisingly routine with its action. This whole picture was centered around the thrilling climax of a damaged plane taking off while a violent sect fires automatic weapons and rockets at them. To the film’s credit, this is a neat sequence with bullets ripping through cars and a highlight kill involving landing gear. However, everything leading up to this moment is a real slog of a typical action picture that spends more time finding thrills than making the struggle more compelling. And even some of those thrills turn out to be a bore.
Gerard Butler plays pilot Brody Torrence, a brash man hoping to finish up a flight to get home to his grown daughter. He’s going to be a bit late, and if you guessed that this becomes a snarky punchline to his adventure, you’d be right. During a flight that was supposed to be quiet, a thunderstorm forces the airliner to make an emergency landing in the Philippines on an island run by a militia. With little hope of surviving, Brody’s only hope of saving the passengers is to rely on the transported criminal Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter).
Even with the low standards of mindless action romps, Plane is a film that slogs around trying to get to the exciting bits and stumbles more often than it charges into them. In one of the first significant fights of the film, the camera follows Butler and a militia member as they engage in a fistfight. The fight proceeds with a long-running cut that gets the camera too close to appreciate the choreography. It’s also weirdly edited where the music doesn’t quite feel tense, and a few sound effects are missing to make it feel more than a rough edit.
A film like this could succeed if there were something more to care about with the characters and their plight. It would seem like this scenario is ripe for a buddy action picture, with Brody and Louis having some chemistry. Sadly, it’s strictly business for these two, who seem locked into their worlds. There’s no time for manly connections and understanding when guns are fire, punches to throw, and sledgehammers to smash open craniums. Don’t expect any personality from the militia as well, which appears like a cartoon version of a militia with an almost sexual desire to ransack a commercial airliner and torture the prisoners.
Before the thrilling action that wakes you up at the tail end, there are a few bright spots to lift this picture out of its action cliche doldrums. Yoson An makes for a likable enough co-pilot, doing the best with his tactile role as Butler. Tony Goldwyn easily steals the show despite being a former special forces officer who paces around a room barking at airline owners and mercenaries. Besides those elements, there’s hardly much more to this picture than merely going through the motions.
I don’t even care if this part sounds cliche; Plane puts its action premise on autopilot as it coasts towards its decent finale. Aside from its okay set piece of a plane being shot at by terrorists on the ground, there’s little to be excited about in a film that feels like it’s on the first draft of the script and the editing process. You know what, screw it, let’s just make the other obvious cliched criticism: Plane is too darn plain ever to be memorable.