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Flightplan (2004)

Director: Robert Schwentke

Screenplay: Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray

Cast: Jody Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean, Erika Christensen, Kate Beahan

Color, approx 93 minutes
MPAA Classification: PG-13

Genre: Action / Drama / Thriller

Reviewed by Jim Lewis

This is a much better movie than I expected. 

Jodie Foster’s despondent character is flying her husband’s body from Berlin to New York. Her young daughter is abducted during the flight. Or is she? Foster is either accompanied by the daughter, or she isn’t. Grief may have broken her.

I had seen the trailer. The casting of Erika Christensen (“Swimfan” all-time stalker) as a flight attendant; stewardesses maintaining sideways glimpses at Foster suggests there might be a creepy plot aboard the plane. I resisted seeing the movie in the theater because I thought I knew the two options for the story. Either her daughter WAS with her and “Satanists” aboard the craft have snatched her, or her daughter is dead and invisible to others (Like some characters on TV’s "Medium" or "Ghost Whisperer. ")

While watching the film--rather than the trailer--the attendants' glances and forced attempts to converse with and calm Foster may be colored by chatting at a crazed woman who imagined bringing a young daughter aboard. Frantic mom (Foster) seriously disrupts the massive aircraft, frightening and confusing the other passengers, galvanizing the captain and crew.

While I was reviewing my recollection of Foster’s interaction with her daughter—seeking clues to her actual existence or not—a therapist (Greta Schacchi) counsels Foster at her seat. The official range of possibilities is put out there: either the daughter is a figment of grieving mom’s imagination or the living but lost daughter will be OK until the plane lands. 

Mom contends daughter wouldn’t have left her teddy bear and coat. Is mom nuts or is she right? The movie is only half over. It’s crunch time. We will have no patience for a film that drags out this essential question. So the story takes the next step, and you must see it to learn where it goes. But it’s a good ride.

At the time of this writing, the film has done $89 million gross in the US theaters. Admirable. I believe the film would have done even better if the marketing could have suggested the movie had a better secret without giving away the story.    

The performances are all excellent. Watch it with a film-loving friend and treat yourselves to coffee afterwards while you dismantle the film. You can enjoy re-writing the script. Maybe you can author Flightplan 2, The Way It Should Have Been. Enjoy.  

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