WARNING!!! PLOT SPOILERS BELOW!!
I have to admit...I genuinely enjoyed Flightplan with Jodie Foster in a Panic Room-like lead and I probably should have....I mean, the video rental stores sure had me wait long enough for a copy -- no, scrap that: I never even RECEIVED a copy from my local store they were always so out of the title...I actually snubbed it from one of those DVD rental machines outside a supermarket. With such a hoopla surrounding the rental demand for this title, I wanted to be blown from my seat...the film wasn’t THAT good, but it was refreshingly entertaining nonetheless, to the point that it is forcing me to consider a purchase at some point down the road. It may be something you revisit from time to time; I can’t really say the same about Panic Room, which always to me feels more like a good rental.
The plot gets undeniably clichéd by the last frames of the picture, but until that point, you're kept in suspense and dragged into a great "what is going on?" and "who dun it?" kind of thriller that genuinely keeps you interested, as opposed to most of the crap that crawls out of Hollywood studios as of late. There are extremely good audio and visual treats to accompany this on the DVD release by Touchstone, but I will get into that later for all you Polk-a-Holics. The opening sequence finds Foster sitting in some train station in Germany, where we witness flashback scenes to her and her husband and something going wrong -- apparently, the husband had died by "falling" off the roof of their home, but this isn’t explained right away. Foster's character works for a firm in Berlin that supplies parts to build new high-tech jet airplanes, one of which she is flying on to bring her husband's body back to Long Island, New York for burial with her daughter. Once on board this plane that resembles something like a luxury hotel in Vegas, with lounges galore and aisles so wide you wouldn’t mind spending a couple of hours in them, we know something is about to "be up;" of course, the end of the film unfortunately turns into a copy of the Wesley Snipes hijacking thriller Passenger 57, complete with a beautiful female conspirator working for a main thief and posing as a stewardess, but up until then, the pacing is all excitement riddled, if a bit too Foster-intensive (as the film has been accused of via other online reviewers and which I agree with to a point).
Foster is first on board this massive new jet airplane scheduled to take them from Germany to New York, and she tells the young daughter (who has apparently suffered a trauma from the father's death) that her company she works for was instrumental in creating the engines for this plane. Once onboard the luxury plane, another American family gets onboard and sits right in front of Foster and her daughter and immediately begin to annoy her as they're rude, obnoxious and loud. And we've all been in that situation before on a plane. It sucks. A man flying by himself, also with an American "accent" it seems, sits just behind and to the right of Foster, and makes small talk about the family in front of her and the noise they're making. Things start to get weird once the plane takes off for New York, and Foster falls asleep in her seat, only to wake up to find that her daughter is not sitting beside her in the aisle (in the window seat) any longer. She gets up and searches the aisles of the plane, but cannot find her. The tension builds successfully here, as Foster's character starts off in a rather level-headed manner, searching the aisles and talking to the stewardesses about losing her daughter on the plane and then systematically snowballing into a frenzy-infused panic to the point that she is desperate and hysterical, running to the front of the plane and banging on the cockpit door demanding to talk to the captain -- something not that smart to do post-September 11. We discover who the man was that was speaking with her in the seat just behind her -- an air marshal who immediately puts her into handcuffs and tells the pilot that Foster needs to speak with him.
Foster explains to the pilot that she had come onboard with her daughter, fallen asleep and now the little girl is gone -- she demands the plane be searched, but the stewardess staff don’t seem to be too helpful, and the pilot ends up demanding to see Foster's boarding pass for her daughter which has also mysteriously disappeared. The flight attendants tell her and the pilot that they have no record for a girl traveling with her on their passenger manifest and they didn’t even see Foster get on a plane with a little girl, making her believe she may have imagined this whole thing about coming onboard with a daughter; the pilot asks Foster if she had anything alcoholic to drink on the flight, or if she is on medication of some kind. Foster admits to being on an anxiety medication, but continues to defend the fact that she indeed brought a daughter onboard and that the plane be searched. The crew gets instructions from the pilot to search the whole plane for the little girl, but she still doesn’t turn up. The air marshal is being kept busy with Foster's character as she begins to spiral out of control, desperate to find the girl she claims she came onboard with, even running into two Arab passengers who she accuses of looking into the windows of her home in Berlin the night before this flight...the Arab men take the accusations personally, thinking everyone on the flight wants to accuse them of being terrorists, but in Foster's mind, she believes they want to hijack the plane and use her daughter as a hostage -- that's how far "gone" she is from all this.