Gerard Butler and Mike Colter in Plane out 2023

Film Review – Plane (2023)

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Plane is the newest film in a line of contemporary Gerard Butler action movies. Butler plays Captain Brodie Torrance, a Scottish pilot who is flying passengers to Honolulu during Hogmanay. When the plane is struck by lightning, he makes a successful emergency landing. Unfortunately for all onboard, they have landed on Jono, an island off the coast of the Philippines that also serves as the headquarters for terrorists, such as the lethal Junmar (Evan Dane Taylor). Junmar and his insurgents take Torrance’s passengers hostage to ransom them. To rescue them and escape the island, Torrance must reluctantly team up with Louis Gasparce (Mike Colter), a convicted murderer of whom his flight was transporting.

Plane has been in development for a long time. From first being pitched by co-writer Charles Cumming in 2016, it’s had a long journey getting to the big screen. The marketing certainly makes it look like another Gerard Butler action film in the vein of Geostorm or the Has Fallen movies, many of which have become indistinguishable from each other. Luckily for Plane, it flies above those titles. This is a tense and exciting action movie that makes the most of its premise to deliver genuine thrills.

Torrance has a saying that keeps him calm – “one minute at a time”. It’s his way of handling crises. The film very much follows this philosophy in its craftsmanship. The premise is relatively simple – a plane crash leading to a hostage situation – yet Cumming and co-writer J. P. Davis glean all they can from this idea. By taking each obstacle facing Torrance and his crew and passengers, the film keeps the suspense high, creating tension you could cut with a knife. This ensures kinetic pacing and a legitimate sense of urgency to the main conflicts of the story.

Jean-Francois Richet – best known for the Assault on Precinct 13 remake – helms this movie. He and his team do a cracking job at translating the inherent stress of the screenplay into the visual medium. The use of smash cut editing between Torrance, the exterior of the plane and the interior of the cabin revel in the fear and adrenaline of the situation while he is making the emergency landing. Meanwhile the use of close ups and sound add to the intensity when the film eventually trades in its Air Force One esque thrills for the exchanges of gunfire seen in many an action picture from Heat to Butler’s own Has Fallen movies. The decision to cut between the fighting on the ground with Torrance and the plane with the air crash investigators, who know they are in a race against time to find the plane, is an especially welcome choice. Richet’s direction maintains the same pressure on the characters as the script does, thus bringing out some great stuff in the editing and cinematography.

The characters of Plane are not exactly the most complex. However, similar to movies like The Raid, when your action is this adrenaline charged, you can afford to have more simplistic figures on screen. Torrance is certainly a likeable figure in both the moral and badassery departments. While perhaps grittier than the average pilot, he’s nonetheless a noble character who wants to get home to his daughter Danielle (Haleigh Hekking), but also bears the responsibility of being a captain, both of his plane and of his passengers. His chemistry with his first officer Dele (Yoson An) creates a charming pairing whenever they interact, and the budding understanding between him and Gusparce makes for an interesting subplot amongst all of the anxiety. Butler is the standout here with his hardened but nonetheless charismatic embodiment of the action star tropes that we’ve come to admire. It’s also very nice to see Mike Colter back on screen after the unfortunate cancellation of Luke Cage. His role as a quiet but deadly convict with a mysterious backstory is one he plays with as much energy and wit as Butler opposite him.

As fun as Plane is, it’s not the next Speed or even the next Air Force One. The CGI is polished and clean, but the special effects are easy to spot for the trained eye, which does somewhat take us out of the otherwise edge-of-your-seat intensity. Furthermore, it is quite reliant on recognisable tropes within action movie formulas, such as a self-righteous hero and side characters who act as hindrances more than allies. Those who are tired of said tropes might find the film somewhat tiresome. But those who are willing to overlook these missteps in favour of the themes on redemption and perseverance, as well as the confident filmmaking on display, will find themselves greatly rewarded by the film.

If Plane had adopted a self-aware, tongue in cheek approach to its premise then it would have been understandable. But the fact that it doesn’t, and plays its premise straight, actually works to its advantage in the long run. While it doesn’t reinvent the genre or break new ground, it certainly knows how to craft some strong action with identifiable characters and measured attention to suspense. Sometimes that is all a film needs to be, and as such Plane becomes a really fun experience that fans of the action genre will likely have a blast with. Best of all, it actually lets Gerard Butler be Scottish too!

★★★


Action, Thriller | USA, 2023 | 15 | Cinema | 27th January 2023 (UK) | Lionsgate Films | Dir. Jean-François Richet | Gerard Butler, Mike Colter, Tony Goldwyn, Daniella Pineda, Yoson An

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