2005-10-07 / Columnists


By Robert Snyder

It is the sheer power of Jodie Foster’s acting that keeps “Flightplan” from crash landing.

The plot has enough holes to have sunk the Titanic before it left the dock. Yet, Foster as a frantic mother is so riveting that your interest should be maintained until the climax completely sabotages it.

Continuing the protective parent role that she perfected in “Panic Room,” Foster plays recently-widowed aircraft engineer Kyle Pratt, whose husband mysteriously fell to his death from their apartment in Berlin. After boarding the plane back to America, Kyle and her traumatized 6-year-old daughter, Julie (Marlene Lawston), settle in and go to sleep. On awakening, Kyle discovers that her daughter is missing.

But where? The kid couldn’t have stepped out for some air at 37,000 feet.

Kyle at first holds off her panic, until she gets the message from everyone on board that her daughter doesn’t exist. In fact, Julie’s name is not even on the passenger list. It’s hard to believe, but no one saw this kid on the plane.

As Kyle’s desperate-mother mode locks in, the movie takes on the “is she insane?” aspect of the famous “Twilight Zone episode, where William Shatner thinks he sees a gremlin on the airplane wing and nobody buys it.

At this point, “Flightplan” and Foster’s performance peak. She begins to believe that the shock of her husband and daughter’s double death has launched her into insanity. Through her distraught expression, we see her psyche collapsing. Then, something seemingly insignificant makes her aware that she’s been set up.

Soon, we’re in the extortion-conspiracy-airline scenario that has just earned “Red Eye” $55 million at the box office. However, what little sense “Red Eye” makes is absent from “Flightplan.”

Because she happens to have designed this particular plane, Kyle knows all the secret cargo places and how to access them. She also knows how to drive the attendants, Air Marshal Carson (Peter Sarsgaard), Captain Rich (Sean Bean) and every passenger crazy as they try to control her panicky sprints up and down the aisles, then into the inner workings of the aircraft. At times, “Flightplan” resembles “Animal Crackers” with Foster as Harpo.

If you’re a Jodie Foster fanatic, “Flightplan” may be just the ticket to high-flying entertainment. Otherwise, rent a DVD of  “Airplane!” and have some laughs that are intentional.

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