When the start of the year blues hit, there’s something that always helps ease the pain – a brand new action-blockbuster. ‘Plane’ dutifully obliges with a captivating, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride, and a taut, tension-filled story that completely captivates your attention. It’s very much an old-fashioned action disaster movie in the classic vein, with strong performances and a fast-paced plot that hooks you in from the get-go and delivers a very satisfying big screen experience.
When he’s forced to take on-board a prisoner onto his commercial flight, pilot Gerard Butler’s day is about to get a whole lot worse. Not only that, but when the flight is forced to go through a dangerous tropical storm, the plane has to make an emergency landing in a war-zone. Can he keep his passengers alive and escape? And can his new convict passenger (‘Luke Cage’ star Mike Colter) actually help him out?
On the surface, ‘Plane’ looks like a generic big studio actioner that plays to familiar beats. But in-fact it’s a very lean blockbuster that isn’t bogged down by excessive expositions, ridiculous circumstance or nonsensical scenarios. Instead, the screenplay by Charles Cumming and J.P. Davis makes sure that the usual cliches in this genre aren’t pandered to, and in French director Jean-François Richet (whose past credits include the compelling ‘Mesrine’ movies and the 2005 version of ‘Assault on Precinct 13’), they have a very intelligent man steering this ship. Nothing is wasted onscreen, it runs at a very brisk but involving pace, and the plot is, crucially, always played straight-down-the-middle and serious. This is the biggest win ‘Plane’ has achieved. It manages to be more of a thriller than a CGI-led spectacle and that’s a very welcome route to take.
Gerard Butler is brilliant as Captain Brodie Torrance, a Scottish pilot who takes it upon himself to save his passengers when the unthinkable happens. Butler is a brilliant movie star and he never gets his due credit I don’t think. Equally at home in a rom-com (the criminally underrated ‘The Ugly Truth’), a family adventure (the ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ series), or even contemporising Shakespeare himself (‘Coriolanus’), Butler is always excellent onscreen. He is of course, most well-known for delivering excellent action fare like ‘300’ and ‘Olympus Has Fallen’. In ‘Plane’, Butler is asked to deliver more than just a standard gung-ho action hero, and he delivers a very memorable performance that’s more dramatic in its approach.
Butler shares a good chemistry with his co-star Mike Colter too, who also hands in an assured turn as convicted criminal Louis Gaspare, who has just been apprehended by the FBI after a lengthy stint on the run. Their situation forces them to work together, and they make a great onscreen duo. Colter can obviously handle the action in his sleep, but he gives a character with very little backstory some decent depth. Daniella Pineda is also good as air stewardess Bonnie, who must try and keep the peace between the passengers when the plane crash lands in a guerrilla, war-torn land.
Elsewhere there is solid support from ‘Ghost’ and ‘Scandal’ star Tony Goldwyn as a crisis management agent Scarsdale for the Trailblazer airline whose plane has gone missing. Screen favourite Paul Ben-Victor plays Mr. Hampton, the owner of the airline who is trying to avoid this PR disaster from spiralling out of his control. The rest of the passengers do just enough to keep the story going, but again, the strength of the script means that we don’t need to know all of their backstories. It doesn’t waste time adding forced narratives in – this is very much all about the immediacy of survival and escape, and as a result ‘Plane’ is a very direct, to-the-point dramatic thriller that’s lean and focused.
Plane is a white-knuckle ride that plays everything seriously and that’s its crowning glory. It’s a big action film that is exactly what we need to start the year off on the front-foot. Full of gunfights, suspense and plenty of carnage, this is one ‘Plane’ that has arrived on-time to banish our January-blues for good. Easily the best action film of the year so far, ‘Plane’ is an unmissable ride that isn’t afraid of deliver some disturbing scenes to give you a real sense of the threat that the passengers face, and a hero duo that’s very easy to champion for.
Cast: Gerard Butler, Mike Colter, Daniella Pineda, Tony Goldwyn, Paul Ben-Victor, Lilly Krug, Evan Dane Taylor, Kelly Gale, Tara Westwood, Remi Adeleke, Joey Slotnick, Otis Winston, Jessica Nam Director: Jean-François Richet Writer: Charles Cumming, J.P. Davis Certificate: 15 Duration: 107 mins Released by: Lionsgate Release date: 27th January 2023