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9 reviews, 59 user ratings

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by David Cornelius

"The (Little) Lady Vanishes."
4 stars

Sometimes movie critics have to make wagers with themselves, and I’ve already lost my latest. I bet myself I could go an entire review of “Flightplan” without invoking the name of Alfred Hitchcock, and yet there’s simply no other way of opening a film that’s so Hitchcockian, right down to its bone. Bring in Jodie Foster in the leading role, and I’ve doubly lost my bet - I find myself compelled to mention how her last major feature was “Panic Room,” David Fincher’s own ode to the master of suspense.

There are two ways a Hitchcock reference can go: it can play out as “boy, this movie really wants to be a Hitchcock-level thriller, but it’s just not up to snuff,” or it can play out as “boy, this movie really wants to be a Hitchcock-level thriller, and you know what?” “Flightplan,” from director Robert Schwentke and screenwriters Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray, is of the latter. Which brings me to: You know what? It works.

The film’s premise is deceptively simple. Troubled mom (Foster) and daughter (Kate Beahan) plan to leave Germany and return to New York following the death of dad. On the flight, mom takes a nap, wakes up to find daughter missing, panics. The ultimate hook: she’s told her daughter was never on the plane.

It’s part “The Lady Vanishes,” part “Bunny Lake Is Missing,” and part “The Forgotten” - all without seeming like it’s “part” anything. Only in the final act does it resort to familiar territory, relying on standard thriller plot points to provide a workable solution. (The finale is ill-fitting and clichéd, but surprisingly satisfying.) All that comes before works with a nervous energy and unsettling mood that informs the viewer that things are not right. It’s a sensation that works to the story’s advantage marvelously.

The key to the film is Foster, who reminds us why she’s so missed these days on the screen. Here is an actor who takes what could have been a standard, unimpressive thriller and turns it into a psychological marvel. By believing in the material, she delivers an endlessly impressive, endlessly gripping performance, one that sells the terror without hesitation.

This is a movie about fear, about phobia, and Foster’s nailbiter of a performance helps drive this point home. Dowling and Ray’s script is one that plays off every fear-of-flying terror we have, which are then heightened by the addition of that ultimate fear, the fear of losing one’s child. This is not a movie bound to make any parent comfortable, by any means, and the filmmakers know it. They’re out to push buttons, and the snowballing panic that ensues forced each scene to be more powerful than the last.

Well, that is until that aforementioned final act, in which the screenplay shrugs, realizing that after so long, it has to come up with some kind of workable answer. It’s the curse of any deliciously unsolvable mystery: the fun is in the not knowing, but sooner or later, knowing will have to become an option. And so we get your typical thriller-on-a-plane stuff; it works on its own terms, to be sure, and it’s quite fun in a dopey sense, but considering how smart the rest of the film had been, it comes off as a bit of a letdown.

But it’s not nearly enough to sink the film. “Flightplan” is effortlessly effective, using a strong cast (supporting players include Sean Bean and Peter Sarsgaard) and a complete understanding of how to turn such a simple setting into an inescapably claustrophobic affair. Schwentke keeps the sense of dread cranked throughout, and while his ode to Hitchcock isn’t as airtight as “Panic Room,” it still does its job remarkably well, supplying a solid dose of thrills and a gripping sense of unease that makes for one noteworthy thriller.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=13113&reviewer=392
originally posted: 09/27/05 15:14:09
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell flawed but tense 4 stars
2/19/11 Ark Mostly turd! Silly writing, she JUST HAPPENS to have designed the plane? Turd writing! 3 stars
8/29/08 Shaun Wallner Ugg boring!! 2 stars
3/01/08 Ivana Mann Jodie Foster in most every movie: "You hurt my daughter...I'm gonna kick your ass." Yawn... 2 stars
2/17/08 Pamela White farfetched plan but what it lacks in plot Foster makes up in acting 4 stars
12/11/07 Double M Interesting premise ruined by lame, illogical "twists" and plotholes. just a crowd pleaser. 2 stars
8/06/07 R.W. Welch Contrived, unconvincing, yet mildly diverting. 3 stars
6/03/07 Ropa Dope Pure unadulterated poop. As stupid as it can get. 1 stars
1/30/07 Matt Jodie's magic shines through and saves the day for this otherwise silly bit of nonsense. 4 stars
1/15/07 K Jones The initially interesting plot descends into utter stupidity. Not one I'll be seeing again. 2 stars
12/19/06 MP Bartley Starts well, ends ludicrously, always enjoyable. 3 stars
12/14/06 Cara takes a nosedive at the end 2 stars
11/06/06 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 4 stars
10/27/06 Richard It had a nice atmosphere to it. 4 stars
8/25/06 Stanley Thai A great thriller w/ great acting. Such a fantastic film. 4 stars
6/15/06 lia arab countertype as evident of how villain doesn't related to any race!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
5/07/06 Diane Perkins really good, keeps your attention, very suspensful 4 stars
4/24/06 millersxing Cramped, claustrophobic, & a bit dull. Jodie and Peter give the material a lift. 3 stars
4/04/06 John too predictable and boring 1 stars
3/31/06 Nobody Fun to try to predict what will happen. Has enough twists to keep it interesting. 5 stars
3/30/06 Dan fun 4 stars
3/19/06 Jeromebosch Garbage 1 stars
3/14/06 Indrid Cold A pleasant diversion, but totally forgettable. 3 stars
3/03/06 Simon Valueless. Foster being characteristically irritating; uninspired plot. a slight thrill. 2 stars
2/23/06 ES Didn't mind it 3 stars
2/11/06 Joe Smaltz Boring bullshit plot, effects, ect 1 stars
2/09/06 Monday Morning Many TV shows are better than this flick. And Jody, you're not aging well. 1 stars
1/25/06 Rocky I'll never see another heroic J. Foster cardio-machine mother in dire straits waste of film 2 stars
1/14/06 Quigley a really dysfunctional Red Eye wanna-be, filled with political icons and creepy assistants 2 stars
1/10/06 Tamara D.Leonard I was bored to tears. So disappointed because I thought it would be awesome w/Jodie in it. 2 stars
1/08/06 Anthony Feor i use to hate Jodie Foster untill this movie 4 stars
12/28/05 Jenna Furr Before pushing detonator, Kyle should've said "Whoopy kigh yigh yay, motherfucker!" 4 stars
12/20/05 Littlepurch Really enjoyed it. Great acting from Foster and a good plot - not a let down at the end! 4 stars
12/07/05 Dee portraying arabs as suspects on a flight -how insensitve 2 stars
12/06/05 alice I agree about the ending, they should stop doing that! 3 stars
11/13/05 john bale Foster plays the fighting Mum again well, but the plot is mainly nonsense 4 stars
11/11/05 Dan Its total utter fantasy.. 1 stars
11/11/05 Dan Smith Jodie Foster was alright,but over all needs work. 3 stars
10/23/05 Jessy The camra angles were of decent quality but the script direction could have used some work. 2 stars
10/19/05 Agent Sands OK, you know what? These pat endings are really getting out of fucking hand! 3 stars
10/18/05 Valerie awesome. 5 stars
10/11/05 --- So its the air marshals we should be afraid of not arab terrorists..OOOKAAAY... 2 stars
10/11/05 Chelito is the captain the mortuary director? who cares? Why did I spend $8 on this movie? 1 stars
10/10/05 Quigley foster was good, sean bean was wasted. red eye is much better; this one wasn't that great 3 stars
10/07/05 Ryanrc very cool 5 stars
10/06/05 Louise McChrystal Entertaining, a little slow at times 4 stars
10/04/05 Jesse Taylor Very exhilirating thriller. Kept me on the edge of my seat. Foster is great. 4 stars
10/02/05 Chris Pretty decent 4 stars
10/02/05 whateverman Waste of money. Decent directing, moronic script. 1 stars
9/30/05 TD Good premise, great Foster/Bean, terrible writing. 2 stars
9/29/05 tony Amazing! I never thought it was that good! Spellbinding! 5 stars
9/29/05 zinnmeister complete crap 1 stars
9/28/05 Ramazan Güneºp 1 stars
9/26/05 Jonathon Holmes same formula thriller crap...only worse 1 stars
9/25/05 Josh Standlee Fucking horrible! Boring characters in a boring movie really sucks! 1 stars
9/24/05 lulu papa excellent and intense; dont read between the lines 5 stars
9/24/05 Raymond it got pretty cheesy at the end. 3 stars
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  23-Sep-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-Jan-2006



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