Since the 1980s, action movies have been excessively simplistic in concept, execution, and title. So, if you hear that the new Gerard Butler picture is titled “Plane,” you’d be excused for assuming that you can run the entire film through your mind in a flash. On a plane was Gerard Butler (check).
He is likely the pilot (check). Probably a criminal is onboard (check). The film will be a low-flying, B-grade version of “Air Force One,” with Butler’s windpipe-smashing grizzled lug rescuing the day in a manner similar to Harrison Ford’s heroically resourceful president.
In fact, no.
In his broken-down-dad-with-a-gold-chip-on-his-shoulder mode, Butler plays a commercial airline pilot, Captain Brodie Torrance, who boards a passenger jet on New Year’s Eve from Singapore (where he is based) to Tokyo.
A convicted murderer in handcuffs, Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter), who is being extradited and is added to the passenger list at the last minute, is aboard the plane. We anticipate fireworks, and they arrive in the shape of severe weather.
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The CEO in command of Trailblazer Airlines has opted to send the aircraft in the direction of a ferocious storm in order to save on fuel.
Brodie is intended to pilot the plane over the storm’s peak, but it appears that this storm has no peak. The jet’s electrical system is shorted out by a lightning bolt after the aircraft is tossed around like a tin can.
These scenes are appropriately terrifying, especially if you have a fear of flying. As the plane begins to lose height, it becomes evident that Brodie will have no choice but to land it, despite the fact that there is nothing below him except the ocean.
But, as luck would have it, he spots to land. An island of jungle landscape with a road running directly through it. How practical! Brodie is able to make an emergency landing, utilizing the road as a makeshift runway and stranding the shorted-out plane and its 14 passengers on Jolo, a remote island in the Philippines controlled by a ragtag militia of separatist rebels.
We believed we were viewing “Plane.” Now, however, we are watching “Island,” “Hostages in the Tropics,” or “Gerard Butler Outwits and Kicks the Asses of Sloppy Nihilist Guerrillas.” “Plane” is an aircraft thriller that becomes a kidnap-escape thriller that becomes a “Defiant Ones” buddy thriller that becomes a mission-control thriller that becomes a plane thriller again. However, the fact that it is all of these things simultaneously is to its advantage.
The French crime-drama filmmaker (“Mesrine”) turned expatriate action stylist (“Blood Father”), Jean-Francois Richet, jumps genres such that none of them outstay their welcome.
The film has a charming utilitarian tone that is anchored in identifiable behavior and almost seems to have originated in a world before Sly and Arnold. It feels less stranded on that isolated island than “Triangle of Sadness” does.
Butler is 53 years old, and his Scottish grit is maturing like a fine wine — or at least a decent brew. Brodie’s (Haleigh Hekking) phone conversations with his college-aged daughter Daniela (Haleigh Hekking), with whom he was scheduled to meet after the flight, reveal his affable nature.
In one of the film’s greatest scenes, which takes place in an abandoned communications shack in the midst of the jungle, Brodie is able to rewire the phone line in a matter of minutes so that he can call Trailblazer Airlines.
A war room of corporate troubleshooters, led by a former Special Forces officer portrayed by Tony Goldwyn (who resembles Ryan Seacrest’s musculature), is attempting to determine the whereabouts of the missing airliner.
In a disturbingly humorous sequence, though, Brodie is connected to a 21st-century corporate operator who refuses to collaborate with him. (She believes he is making a prank call.) Therefore, he must call Daniela.
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Even if the Trailblazer team figures out where the plane is, they cannot just swoop in and save the passengers. The government of the Philippines will not participate; only mercenaries will enter the country.
Therefore, Brodie must fight the rebels on his own, but he does get a partner: Louis, the killer in handcuffs, portrayed by the fascinating Mike Colter, who makes this brute a wronged guy who keeps you guessing.
The remaining passengers hide and bicker, or, in the instance of the pompous businessman Sinclair (Joey Slotnick), yell orders until the rebels, led by Dele (Yoson An), a short-fused commander who resembles a low-rent Che Guevara, force him to meek submission.
They require ransom money to fund their war, a strategy that Brodie undermines with fists, machine guns, precision espionage timing, and exceptional piloting abilities. “Plane” is filler, but the film brazens through its own implausibilities, buoyed by Gerard Butler’s squinting, dynamo-like tenacity.
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