Directed by: Jean-François Richet
Distributed by: Lionsgate
Written by Taylor Baker
“Plane” sees Gerard Butler continue to helm middlebrow adult-oriented action flicks, keeping with his recent lineup of films like “Last Seen Alive,” “Copshop,” and “Greenland,” these films are alternatingly bad and small enough to not even get the mini DVD case sized poster at the top of your local Redbox machine or large and silly enough to play wide theatrical releases. “Plane” his latest from director Jean-François Richet–of films like the remake of “Assault on Precinct 13” and “Blood Father”–plays like an amalgamation of general genre exercise and uncommitted inoffensiveness. Butler plays Brodie Torrance, or Captain Torrance, a pilot trying to make it home for the holidays. During his preflight check in Singapore, we meet the true villain of the film, a mindless nameless administrative employee of the airline Trailblazer (for whom Butler’s Torrance works) who refuses to authorize a flight path that would allow them to fly past the very storm that the film depends upon. After explaining that they’ll save some money by flying through it the administrative MacGuffin leaves the plane and they disembark.
In the early aughts and before, films like “Plane”–star vehicle films with large set pieces like a plane, boat, or train–would actually have a physical plane body, boat, or train car on location, or in a warehouse or soundstage and they would actually move it up and down while getting some wide shots of it so you could see the characters, interior, and objects being thrown around by turbulence, waves, or whatever other obstruction was interfering with a vehicle. “Plane” instead employs a ridiculous interior shaky cam to simulate the turbulence they encounter, while actors try to act like they can’t walk down an aisle. While flaws like this are often forgivable, what makes “Plane” unique is that this awful sequence ends up being one of only four or five total harrowing scenes in the entirety of the film. Which wouldn’t be so bad if you could at least suspend your disbelief.
Mike Coulter plays Louis Gaspare, a supposed French special forces veteran on the run for committing a murder more than a decade ago. When prompted by Torrance to explain himself Gaspare asserts one of the dozens of platitudes in the film, to the effect that “you wouldn’t get it man, you weren’t there”. After being struck by lightning, and crash landing on the most dangerous island in all of the Philippines right as the timer runs out a few things happen, Torrance gets everyone off the plane “before it blows up” (it doesn’t), he and his co-pilot attempt to calculate where they could have landed on a paper map and determine they’re in a 1000 mile radius (there are at least half a dozen iPads on the plane carrying 14 passengers, those iPads later in the film have GPS, they could have used the iPads), Torrance frees Gaspare from his shackles with no explanation of why he trusts him and wanders into the jungle in search of a building he saw when they crashed. After a mindless scene establishing that Gaspare is the sort of dude who does what he wants, Torrance phones home and is once again frustrated by bureaucracy. When calling the Trailblazer hotline the agent he speaks with informs him he’s one of hundreds of prank callers that day and asks for his badge number, which is back on the plane. After the agent hangs up on him he gets his daughter on the phone and spits out the last piece of vital information authorities will need to find him right as he is attacked. This begins a one-shot action sequence that is among the worst action choreography I’ve seen. Butler after some back and forth catches the man who is much larger than him in a one-handed front guillotine while holding the other man’s knife-wielding arm out. After Butler flexes really hard the man’s neck snaps, twice, and the audience is meant to never wonder why the man would never use his other arm and hand to defend himself from Torrance’s incredible one-armed strength.
At this point, Gaspare and Torrance return to the plane to discover the separatists have located the passengers while they were away. This leads to some passengers getting killed, the remaining being imprisoned, and a long boring segway into the next action scene where Gaspare wielding a sledgehammer kills the guards while Torrance frees the prisoners. The very few times “Plane” leans into being an action film–like the sledgehammer sequence–it is extremely fun, the reason it’s agonizing to watch is the awful dialogue, paper-thin characters, and intelligence-insulting cutaways to Torrance’s family–especially his daughter–that make viewing the film feel like a chore.
Eventually, a rogue Git-R-Done employee at Trailblazer gets some PMCs to arrive on site and help everyone get away from the bad separatists on the island, who for some reason are only men in an age range of late teens to late forties. It can be difficult to separate where direction ends and cinematography begins, but Brendan Galvin’s cinematography and Jean-François Richet’s direction meld into a hideous mishmash that evokes the work of Uwe Boll, digital cinematography is rarely this ugly.