Lionsgate releases Plane in UK cinemas on January 27, 2023.
n the white-knuckle action movie PLANE, pilot Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler) saves his passengers from a lightning strike by making a risky landing on a war-torn island – only to find that surviving the landing was just the beginning.
When most of the passengers are taken hostage by dangerous rebels, the only person Torrance can count on for help is Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter), an accused murderer who was being transported by the FBI. In order to rescue the passengers, Torrance will need Gaspare’s help, and will learn there’s more to Gaspare than meets the eye.
Over the course of the last two decades, Gerard Butler has carved himself an impressive niche in Hollywood. The actor has essentially created his own sub-genre in which he (and often he alone) saves the world, country, or some other group of helpless people from certain doom.
Most recently we saw this with the brilliant Greenland which released during the pandemic. That film is even spawning a sequel. Here, Butler takes on a smaller scale but equally high stakes scenario by playing the pilot of a plane which crash lands on an island full of murderous mercenaries.
The setup isn’t without issue. Choosing to set much of the film in a real location but with a vastly altered population borders on problematic. But if you’re able to put this aside then Plane has a lot to enjoy.
Charles Cumming’s story, co-written with J.P. Davis, is incredibly self aware. Whilst it fixes its gaze on a concise dramatic tone, it doesn’t take itself seriously enough to come off as anything other than what it is. A very solid B-Movie. There will no doubt be comparisons of other movies of this calibre, most of which find themselves landing on streaming services in the current climate. But with Jean-François Richet’s strong direction Plane is able to cruise above its competitors and command its place in the theatrical release forum.
Plane starts and ends with Butler, as it should. We meet him as the mild mannered pilot, desperate to get his last flight out of the way before reuniting with his daughter for New Year’s Eve. We leave him exactly where we expect to, having saved the day. This style of B-Movie action-thriller is often subject to little or no meaningful character development. Forgoing depth and nuance for high stakes, life threatening danger. That is also not the case with Plane. In a similar vein to Greenland, there is a surprising amount to care about with many of Plane’s passengers.
The sense of tension builds beautifully across the film, culminating in a fast paced, last ditch attempt to get off the island. As any audience member would expect from a Butler action-thriller, there are plenty of gunshots fired, punches pulled and even the odd explosion. The melodramatic rising of the stakes is exactly the kind of cannon fodder that Plane’s audience is clamouring for and there’s more than enough here to satisfy.
Interestingly, I felt there were two movies hiding within the 107 minute runtime of Plane. The flight itself, forced to make an emergency landing after being struck my lightning, is easily its own film. Drawing out the dramatic tension longer, spending more time following Terrence and co-pilot Dele (Yoson An) as they struggle to keep themselves aloft, is an exciting prospect. Particularly with an action spin that would take it away from the sanitised Sully.
Then events on the island, dealing with the local mercenaries and subsequent rescue operation, also easily could stand on its own. Whilst it’s understandable that the story be condensed to hold the attention of a theatrical audience, I can’t help but wonder how much more story exists between the pages of the Plane script. The through line of the airline executives and worried family members could have acted as connective tissue between two very different, but equally compelling films.
Plane is one of the better films in the now legendary Bulter-Saves-the-Day sub-genre. A tense, nail-biting thrill ride. Its predictability is far outweighed by strong action and exceedingly high stakes.