January duds are in full effect, ushered in by the latest Gerard Butler outing “Plane.” I’m not entirely sure if we’re just desperate for new releases or are too busy being swept up in the awards season to give proper criticism, but the positive critical reception for this one is downright baffling. I’m all down for some good old fashioned Butler shlock, but “Plane” is a direct-to-video level action film that never takes flight.
I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to be in the minority and dissent from the general consensus that this is worth your time. It’s not. And even more frustrating is this film doesn’t even have enough gusto to lean into the very worst (or best) of its top of the year release date. “Plane” is the Spirit Airlines of mid level action thrillers, selling you budget thrills but overcharging you for everything once you’ve bought your ticket.
Directed by Jean-François Richet (“Assault on Precinct 13” 2013) with a screenplay from relative newcomers Charles Cummings and J.P Davis, “Plane” follows captain Brodie Torrance who is flying a relatively light flight from Singapore on New Years Eve. 14 passengers and convicted murdered by extradited, Torrance is forced to conduct an emergency landing on a remote island in the Philippines after the plane is struck by lightening. As fate would have it, the island they land on is run by militias with a propensity for taking hostages and killing them without hesitation. With rescue struggling to find their location, it’s up to Torrance and the convict to find a way to survive and get everyone to safety. The film stars Butler, Mike Colter (“Marvel’s Luke Cage,” “The Defenders“), Yoson An, and Tony Goldwyn.
It is extremely rare for me to my check phone during a movie, but “Plane” slogs along at such an unbearable pace I couldn’t help by start timing how long it took before any action actually happen. Barring a somewhat tense emergency landing (packed with unbelievable things that as a frequent flyer I simply cannot forgive even with the requirement of suspension of belief), the first bit of action doesn’t even happen until roughly 40 minutes into this film. Yes, I timed it. Then, it stalls out for another 30 minutes, delivers 15-20 minutes of worthwhile action, then ends with easily one of the most tenseless climaxes I’ve seen in a very long time. If we’re doing the math, “Plane” is 107 minutes long. Subtracting roughly 7 minutes of credits, there’s 20 minutes of action and 80 minutes of nothing. Just people talking and complaining about being in the jungle, with an occasional cut away to one of the least imposing villains I’ve seen in a long time.
The most frustrating thing about “Plane” is two fold: the action itself is great when it’s happening, proving that Richet is more than capable of delivering well shot, engaging action. But it also instantly removes all the stakes as soon as it happens, with no one ever really in danger and no question as to whether or not they’ll make it off the island safely. Cumming and Davis’ script doesn’t do anyone any favors, opting to linger on the wrong things and check one too many boxes that never add up to the thrills we expect something like this film to deliver. It meanders on characters for excruciating amounts of time while never truly exploring any character beyond their surface archetypes. Colter’s Gaspare (the convict) is reduced to his plot device for being on the plane and a pocket knife indicating his military background. We’re suppose to believe him to be some sort of anti-hero, but “Plane” goes out of its way to make sure he’s never, ever interesting.
And then there’s Butler as Captain Torrance. I don’t really know what to do with Gerard. On the one hand, he seems to have racked up an insurmountable amount of student loan debt that requires him to say yes to just about anything that comes his way. On the other hand, Butler isn’t a bad actor by any stretch. He seems to be fully self aware and working for the paycheck, but I can’t help but feel that as much as a film like “Plane” is in his wheelhouse, he has the charisma and talent to do so much more. I get it, not everyone needs to strive for Oscars, and maybe he likes the big checks for minimal work. I don’t want to knock a man for working consistently, but there’s just something so frustrating about someone who has all the charm and capability in the world and CHOOSES to be known to the world as “The guy from that one movie no one saw.”
I truthfully wanted to enjoy this film. I didn’t go in with high expectations, and genuinely wanted a b-movie, no frills action thriller. Yes, even one starring Gerard Butler, who for all his less than stellar filmography typically delivers on his promise. Unfortunately, “Plane” is forced to stay grounded, with only glimpses of entertaining action and not much else to enjoy. Its like being stuck in a middle seat with a crying baby on both sides and no headphones to drown out the noise.
“Plane” is a flight that is better off canceled, one that will leave you praying you get to de-board and take a different flight. It may be for some, but it’s a hard pass for me.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
“Plane” is now playing in theaters. You can watch the trailer below.