PLANE (2023)

Gerard Butler and Mike Colter in a still
  • Release Date: 13/01/2023
  • Cast: Gerard Butler, Mike Colter, Daniella Pineda, Tony Goldwyn
  • Director: Jean-François Richet

An action film without enough action and repetitive treatment is destined to disappoint

— Ambar Chatterjee

I have not had very good luck with Hollywood films of late. Even though I went into Plane with zero expectations, I was secretly hoping it to be old-school popcorn entertainment. It did show some flashes of brilliance and proved that it could have been that film that could surprise me and end up being a fun experience. Unfortunately, it was so half-hearted, half-baked, and removed from getting its hands dirty and grimy that this film ended up being just a few flashes in the pan and then a deafening silence after that.

A Trailblazer airlines plane carrying 14 passengers and a battle-hardened killer is forced to make an emergency landing on one of the islands near the Philippines that is controlled and subjugated by an army of thugs and terrorists. Once on the ground, the captain of the plane, Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler) quickly discovers that he and his passengers are in grave danger. He enlists the help of the presumed killer, Louis Gasper (Mike Colter), who proves to be a reliable aide. Sadly, the passengers are kidnapped by the terrorists and it is left up to Brodie and Louis to rescue them from the terrorists and find a way out of the island.

An action film needs to hook its audience with the initial build-up if it is to be investing till the end. There are a few instances where the film takes its time to build up but it should never be boring and superficial in its opening few minutes. My first problem with Plane is exactly this. The first 15-20 minutes of the film are extremely boring and superficial. The entire crash-landing sequence is envisioned and executed so poorly that it feels staged, flimsy and caricaturish from start to finish. The visual quality of this portion is also very poor and there just isn’t enough tension or thrill to render this sequence as the perfect setup for what is supposed to be an edge-of-the-seat thriller.

A still from the film

Once the plane lands in the hostile territory, the proceedings get a little better. We still do not get any bombastic action sequences but there is enough tension and thrill involved in the proceedings to keep the audience satisfied for the while. A major contributor to this is the solid performance by Gerard Butler who is able to make the audiences like him and hence every time it appears that his safety might be jeopardized, the director is able to grab our attention. Mike Colter gives him able support even though we learn absolutely nothing about him apart from what he tells Butler in a brief exchange. There is one hand-to-hand combat in this portion of the film that was well-executed and felt tense.

Post this, the film introduces us to the villains and what they are capable of in one brief sequence following which the film’s elongated climax begins. We learn nothing about the villains but the director makes it a point to put the onus on atleast two characters among them whom we are supposed to hate. This hatred is necessary as later in the climax this hatred is what will result in a sense of wish fulfillment when these characters get butchered by our heroes.

The climax of the film worked partially for me. The things that are shown are a staple of films of this nature and it is all pretty well executed. The realism goes for a toss but who am I to complain about that in a film of this nature. However, what bugged me about the climax was the utter lack of carnage and mayhem. Even the death of the main antagonist is practically glossed over. The film is rated R and even the man at the box office confirmed with me if I was an adult before handing me my tickets. Interestingly, I didn’t see anything in this film that would be worrisome for anyone who is not an adult. This could very easily be watched on Christmas eve with the entire family and not even your 100-year-old archaic catholic grandmother would be offended by it. This is not appreciation for this film but its weakest link.

A still from the film

For an action film, Plane has way too much dialogue and drama and way too little action. The second crash landing of the plane was well done but the first looked worse than the cut scenes of late 2000s video games. There isn’t a single memorable character in the film. There isn’t a single action sequence that you haven’t seen a better version of before or one that you would remember for the rest of your life. Many are calling this film the second coming of the 1990s Hollywood action films. Unfortunately, it is too timid and watered down in its approach to the action and particularly the antagonists to merit as a 1990s action film released in 2023.

If that was not all, the film felt dated technically too. The visuals are unimaginably dull. While the editing helped build up a decent rhythm in the climactic action set piece, the poor visual quality was never far from getting noticed and impacting the likeability and entertainment quotient of the film. For a film that has so much dialogue, there isn’t a single line of memorable dialogue or one-liners. The two protagonists do nothing crazy and even in their mediocrity, they are able to save one and all. I noticed all these issues in the first viewing of the film. Doesn’t that prove the point that the film was unable to deliver what it was meant to?

Entertaining action films can be mindless but they are able to suck the audiences in to their over-the-top and bombastic world and keep them there for the duration of the film’s runtime. That is another aspect in which Plane failed miserably. Overall, I wanted to enjoy this film. I did enjoy bits and pieces of it. Sadly, it had too many lingering issues and too little action. Lifeless treatment of the plot made me dislike it a lot more than I liked it in portions.    

Rating: 2 out of 5.


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