Review – Plane

There’s nothing better than flying first class. It’s just one of life’s most luxurious pleasures. Reclining seats, delicious food, endless alcohol and comfort at 30,000 feet beyond your wildest dreams. And while in an idyllic world, being in first class every time you fly would be amazing, it’s not always an available option. 

But as you’re ready to board the plane, and the check-in machine beeps with an alert stating you’re in the emergency exit row, the unexpected surprise of extra leg room in the economy section is enough for you to smile your way across the tarmac, knowing that this small feeling of comfortability may not be business class, but it’s better than cramped knees for a whole flight.

In saying all of this, the latest Gerard Butler driven (or perhaps I should say ‘flown’) action-thriller, Plane, is exactly that – it’s not a business class action film, but it has just enough leg room to have an enjoyable flight!

Gerard Butler, left, and Mike Colter in the movie “Plane.”

Butler (300, Olympus Has Fallen) plays Brodie Torrence, a former Scottish RAF pilot who is now a commercial flight pilot based out of Singapore. Only a few stops away from being able to see his daughter in Hawaii, Torrence must navigate the flight of his life first, in order to make it home. With turbulent weather forecast and ill-informed advice of the storm’s movement, the 14 passenger flight is given the green light to go, but not before a final passenger, fugitive homicide suspect Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter), is forcefully boarded, despite Brodie’s hesitations.

With the stormfront not moving out of the way of the flight path and lightning striking the plane, Brodie is forced to battle extreme elements and an electrically faulted plane to make a safe, but blind landing. However, despite landing reasonably safely with minimal injuries and casualties, Brodie and the survivors’ problems are only beginning when they discover they’ve landed on an outlawed Filipino island, run-over by militia and criminals.

Plane does the simple things right, and that’s why it’s a palatable and enjoyable action-thriller. Within the first 10 minutes of the film, the stakes are set, the characters are established well enough to care about them, and the disastrous flight begins the tense-filled journey that holds the thrills all the way until the closing credits. Even though not every second of Plane is full to the brim of action, there is a relentless energy to its pace and tone that commands the audience’s attention. The plot is simple and engaging, flowing from moment to moment, and set-piece to set-piece without bogging the film down with filler.

The relentless energy comes through Jean-Francios Richet’s direction, in which the camera never stops moving around the action. It’s not to the level of unbearable shaky cam where no action is seen, but the frenetic nature of how Richet captures each moment feels incredibly immersive. Richet’s standout moment is a gritty and visceral one-shot hand-to-hand combat scene involving Brodie and one of the island’s militia, that feels so raw, you wouldn’t be questioned if you thought there was no previous choreography planned and Richet just let the actors roll around in a way that feels like two guys actually fighting. Plane’s explosive finale is also a testament to Richet’s action sensibilities. It’s an exciting, tense and bloody affair that is a perfect cherry on top of the 90-or-so minutes that came before.

Plane’s most fun element is the characters, who feel like they’ve been unapologetically plucked directly from a late 90s/early 2000s action film. Brodie is a no-nonsense captain who isn’t afraid to wield a gun to protect his passengers, and Butler has that everyman sensibility mixed with the action-hero machismo to pull it off perfectly. Then, the reveal of Louis being a soldier from the French Foreign Legion just opens a can of bad-assery for Mike Colter to cement himself as a future action icon (and a recently announced sequel involving Louis to keep that momentum rolling). The macho chemistry between Butler and Colter is another reason why Plane works, and is a key component to its simple action-thriller recipe.

The most heightened, yet still unbelievably fun aspect, is the introduction of Scarsdale (Tony Goldwyn), a former special operations officer who is the liaison between Brodie and the airline whose plane has crashed. Scarsdale is a no-BS guy, who within 60 seconds of being on screen, in a crisis room full of people who want to avoid a lawsuit, dispatches an elite squad of mercenaries to find the survivors of the crash for an extraction out of a lawless island. And Goldwyn does this with such sincere swagger, that he immediately becomes a highlight of the film, and a character who no matter how crazy his plans get, you believe every word that comes out of his mouth.

Plane isn’t trying to re-invent the action-thriller, but it does a fantastic job of maximising all the elements of the genre that make movies like this work. It’s tense, it’s fun and it’s macho lead performances from Butler, Colter and Goldwyn make you feel like you’re back in the best part of the 90s. Sure, first class is great, but sometimes all you need is that extra legroom to have a good time.

Plane streams on Prime Video from May 19.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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