'Plane' by Jean-François Richet Review: What year is it?
Expecting the absolute worst from Plane, I came out of it actually very surprised. Within the first few minutes of the film I felt a unique feeling towards it. The feeling that this film had been made in the wrong decade, and very much resembling the more fun, light action films that would have been made before the year of 2010. Decently sized, but very much small in today's industry, budget and with one or two relatively known actors to carry the main attention of the film while full of decent talent you may not have seen before. A setup that gets straight to the point, entertains, but doesn't stick around beyond for what it is needed. No big emotional plot, no lengthy introduction that gives us full context of its characters.
I really didn't expect this from the film. With its title, and its poster, I expected a very low budget action flick with some comically silly set of ideas and actions scenes that try to be more than is actually possible. I've seen a few like this recently where the budget has actually been quite high but the quality has been completely void due to not pursuing a direction and sticking with it. But this was not the case with Plane, instead it felt like a rare instance of Hollywood understanding its roots; that good, entertaining films can come with tighter runtimes and reasonable budgets. For context, it seems this was made on a budget of around $25m, but it doesn't really feel this way at all for the most part. It definitely feels higher.
The film still seemed to have taken interest from elsewhere, especially with a very common idea. It even reminded me of Lost, of which I loved growing up but never got to finish. For it to give me that nostalgia for a series I didn't even get to finish, I struggle to think of negatives with this film.
Immediately the film introduces us to our protagonist: a father and commercial airline pilot heading across the world to spent the holiday with his daughter. Very quickly the film introduces its other characters as a small group of them board the plane. From here we begin to roam the possibility of which ones might be malicious; after all, the film sets up this assumption that something will go wrong. But why? And who is in on it? It's a very fast but effective way to introduce our main set of characters, not giving them much context but giving us enough of an idea to get a feeling for what type of person they are. That is all that is really necessary, and it works in the adding to the mystery going forward.
For a short while, the film starts off with the plane's expected flight. Going towards a storm that they ideally would prefer to fly around and avoid, but can't. The result is having to attempt to fly over it and increase the altitude. But things take a turn for the worst and the pilots perform an emergency landing on some small island. The scenes leading up to this contribute to the character introductions and mystery, but also serve as some build up, sticking to one location for a while. I quite like films that manage to stay interesting while staying within one location like this, but Plane doesn't stick around in one area for too often. Much of these scenes are quite dark, with exterior shots obviously relying on the special effects. They aren't great, not are they terrible. Mostly intentionally hidden by utilising the nighttime aspect within the story. Sometimes, throughout the film, we get some more special effects that aren't so reliant on hiding away in the darkness, but they really aren't that bad so I don't have anything to complain about there; especially on the budget it has. Putting larger films to shame in this regard.
From the point of the emergency landing, the film takes its shift into the main plot: the plane having landed on a very dangerous island that is under the control of a rebel terrorist organisation. Pushing the tensions beyond the plane emergency landing and stranding its passengers on a random island, and instead displaying the struggle for survival because of other threats. Though I have to admit that from this point much of the film's cast doesn't really go utilised. We sort of forget about many of them having any role in the narrative, because ultimately they don't. They sort of disappear and get left behind as other chsaracters push forward into the survival aspects; and it remains that way throughout the rest of the film's runtime. I expected a bit more from them at least, something other than merely being there for the film's initial introduction and reason for existing. But it's easy to get caught up in the film's events to not really care or even notice that their presence is in fact very much limited.
Part of this is certainly due to the film's simplistic nature. The film isn't really about them, but instead about a pilot, and a father, doing everything he can with a military background to ensure he can not only protect others, but get to his daughter in time for the holidays. But even our protagonist isn't really seen in some glorified, unstoppable way. Instead he feels rather average. Caught up in something greater, and of course not alone in fighting for survival. Accompanied by others when necessary, often with them pulling much of the weight throughout the film's more action oriented sequences. Of which I should also mention are done quite well, especially with the budget. The directing and cinematography don't really go beyond what is necessary, and I actually like it for that. When the guns start popping off, it makes sure it shows the more tactical elements well and gives them weight. Keeping us engaged and feeling the pace of the gunfights.
I actually prefer this over heavily edited action sequences and overly gory visuals. It instead gave the action a more real, faster feeling. Much of which is a result of the directing utilising very up-close perspectives that rely more on the implication of speed over things like explosions and bodies piling up. Something not many films featuring action seem to get: even the implication of things can work well. All of this working well with an unexpected lead by Gerard Butler, of who I can't remember seeing at all in the last decade!
Jean-François Richet is a director I haven't heard of before, and it seems he hasn't directed a whole lot of films over the years, mostly with the odd small film here and there. But Plane is a sudden, and rather impressive, release that shows some talent. I'm definitely curious to see whether this film can result in some additional work from him down the line. I'd say it's deserved, and again making that comparison to other modern releases that have twice the budget and completely lack everything: Plane won't even make you notice how low of a budget it has.
I couldn't help but think of the era of Hollywood that made these types of films back before 2010. Glad that someone, somewhere is still making things that are simple but effective. Still capable of being unique, fun, and technically qualifying as a blockbuster. Not just yet another straight to streaming low budget flick.
Is this the type of film making you would hope makes a comeback? :)
I was speaking to someone yesterday in fact that mentioned this movie and said that it was a lot better than he was expecting. I'll likely check it out even though it's another one of those movies that you kind of know the ending right when the problems start.
I didn't expect too much from this movie going in but I do enjoy some of Gerad Butler's performances, especially in "The Vanishing" so I watched this one out of curiosity. I ended up enjoying it quite a lot and recommended it to my father who also enjoyed watching it this weekend.