Just from looking at the poster and synopsis of Plane, Jean-François Richet’s new action film starring Gerard Butler, you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into when buying your ticket. It will be formulaic, probably at least decently entertaining but mostly a bit daft. The question is, as it always should be with these kinds of films, is it daft enough?
Before we answer that question, let’s recap the basic premise of Plane. Butler stars as Captain Brodie Torrance, a pilot eager to be reunited with his daughter in Hawaii. But first, he has to fly his commercial airline plane from Singapore to Honolulu.
A bit of bad weather forces Torrance and his co-pilot Samuel (Yoson An) to gracefully crash-land the plane on an island in the Philippines. Torrance saves almost everyone on board, but they have no radio and very few supplies, and to make matters worse, the island is run by violent rebels.
Torrance teams up with Mike Colter’s Louis Gaspare, a convicted murderer, because that somehow seems like the sanest thing to do in the middle of the jungle.
Nothing in Plane will take you by surprise. Not a single thing. As much as this sounds like a criticism, it just means the quality of the film comes down to how well it does what it sets out to do. And the answer to that is it does it well and sufficiently enough.
Now we return to the original question of whether Plane is daft enough. A film like Plane, which has very little insight to offer, has to lean into the action more heavily. It needs to produce decent and logic-defying set pieces to keep us entertained. And the weirder it gets, the better it is.
Unfortunately, while Plane does everything well enough, there’s a feeling it’s holding back. It’s surprisingly violent and even gory (there’s a particularly insane death towards the end, but it would be a shame to spoil it here), but it could have been so much more.
Brendan Galvin’s camera moves through the action with a certain breathlessness; the takes are longer than in your average Marvel movie, giving the film much-needed urgency. The action is appropriately chaotic with the handheld camera, but it’s also cleverly used to hide any mistakes in the scene.
Visually, Plane is rather dull. The film’s poster has an ugly yellow filter over it, and it’s an unpleasant surprise to find out the entire film has that same muddy yellow hue. But even then, Butler’s undeniable charisma cuts through it like a warm knife through butter.
Plane actually works as a fascinating study of masculinity if you’re into that sort of reading. Butler plays his usual type; a reliable family man with a ruthless side to him when necessary. His performance is equally warm and tough, but the weak script doesn’t give him much to work with. Similarly, Colter is all muscles as a frustratingly one-note character, and while it’s criminal how underused Daniella Pineda is, Yoson An is a genuine delight in the film.
Plane should have been far more weird and wild than it is, but it’s still a very serviceable and above-average actioner from Jean-François Richet. It doesn’t quite stick the landing, but at least the in-flight entertainment is decent.
Plane is in UK cinemas on 27 January.