By Ben Konuch
“Plane” is a new action-thriller from director Jean-François Richet that stars Gerard Butler as Brodie Torrance, a former RAF pilot who now serves as an airline pilot. He’s given the assignment to fly a New Year’s flight from Singapore to Tokyo in order to reunite with his daughter after a long absence, but when the airliner has to fly through a storm, a freak lightning strike disables the plane’s electronics and forces it down in the Philippines. While trying to find a way to reach the outside world with their whereabouts, Torrance discovers that the island they crashed on is the home of a rebel extremist cell. He now must team up with a criminal named Gaspare, played by Mike Colter, who was being extradited on his flight in order to take back his passengers and get everyone home safely.
“Plane” is a very simple film, but that isn’t a bad thing. It takes a very straightforward premise and makes it into the best possible version of its genre, creating an action-thriller that feels very reminiscent of the action films of the 80s such as “Die Hard.” There are few twists or turns that are unpredictable, but the narrative is solid and engaging and enables some stellar tension.
The action scenes aid this as they’re visceral and tight, and with a race-against-time setup paired with standout performances from Butler and Colter, every fight has real impact.
This is what makes “Plane” so unique, in the sense that despite its somewhat far-fetched premise, the film embraces a sense of grounded realism. Torrance is a pilot and not a fighter, and though he has great bravery in the face of disaster, he doesn’t become a dual-wielding action hero stereotype just because he has to fight for his life. In fact, the very first fight of the film is raw, brutal, and uncomfortably realistic as Torrance desperately holds off a rebel fighter. This scene lasts an unexpectedly long time without a quick fix, instant burst of strength or complete confidence in his ability to stay alive. When Torrance does finally kill his attacker he does so out of necessity, and we see that the action takes a toll on his soul, as the pilot openly grapples with having to take lives in a way that few action films tend to show.
Gerard Butler is at his best here, playing Torrance with the charisma of a natural leader but also the uncertainty of a man who doesn’t want to fight but has to. Opposite him is Mike Colter as Louis Gaspare, an ex-military convict who maintains his innocence but has been hardened by a life on the run. Gaspare has no qualms about killing whenever he has to, and “Plane” makes the audience question whether or not he’s an unflinching killer or a hard man with a good heart. The two strike an uneasy and unlikely alliance, and seeing their dynamic evolve throughout the film was one of the most interesting aspects of “Plane”.
The villains here aren’t extremely fleshed out or defined, but they don’t have to be. As the film is set in a part of the Philippines that houses extremists and separatists, the fictional band of revolutionaries is based on real extremist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf or the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that operate in the Sulu Peninsula. Though some may see the villains as stereotypes, having these antagonists have less-defined characters isn’t an inherent flaw of the film, as its historical and geographical influences allow these villains to be an adequately-accurate representation of groups that have been known to kidnap, torture, and even kill foreigners for profit without qualms. This is another way that “Plane” maintains that grounded, realistic feeling.
“Plane” doesn’t have any revolutionary or groundbreaking elements, but when you fit all of its pieces together, they create a solidly entertaining picture. Stellar acting performances bring life to decent characters to make them feel so much more real than they would on paper, and “Plane” brings the action and excitement back onto the big screen in perfect B-movie fashion.
I give “Plane” an 8/10
“Plane” is now showing in theaters
Ben Konuch is a sophomore Strategic Communication student and an A&E writer for Cedars. He enjoys getting sucked into good stories, playing video games and hanging out with crazy MuKappa friends.
Images courtesy of Lionsgate