Flightplan backfires

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 3, 2005

Here’s what I think happened…

The screenwriter for &uot;Flightplan&uot; is sitting at his desk in his office, working on the script for the latest &uot;terror in the sky&uot; vehicle. Suddenly, the producer rushes in like a bat out of hell, wearing a smile that threatens to burst right off his cheeks, and the following conversation begins:

Producer: &uot;Hey, you’re not gonna believe this! Jodie Foster agreed to star in our flick!&uot;

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Screenwriter: &uot;You’re kidding! We finally got her, huh?&uot;

Producer: &uot;You betcha! But there’s a catch – she’s got to start filming tomorrow, or she’s out.&uot;

Screenwriter: &uot;WHAT?! Tomorrow? But I’ve only got half the film done! We can’t start then!&uot;

Producer: &uot;This is too good to be true, buddy boy! I mean, HELLO, Clarice Starling here!&uot;

Screenwriter: &uot;So what do I do?&uot;

Producer: &uot;You know. Just slap together some clunking lines, a plot held together with Post-It notes, and some ending that’s even farther than farfet-ched. You never know, maybe the people will believe it.&uot;

Screenwriter: &uot;Yeah, OK.&uot;

That would explain Foster’s latest mis-work.

Hannibal Lecter’s former gal is Kyle Pratt, a propulsion engineer who’s just lost her husband to an &uot;accident,&uot; (the quotations refer to one of the film’s most dis-believable aspects) and is flying from Berlin back to New York with his body onboard, along with her heart-shattered daughter Julie. Along the way, the two fall asleep together, and Kyle wakes up to discover Julie’s missing. Over the next few minutes, the tension builds like a volcano ready to erupt – remember, this is still the good part – as Kyle hysterically makes the rest of the passengers, the crew and the captain aware of her plight.

What would we do if we lost our child on a huge, two-story, state-of-the-art airplane? We can’t guess, but the film spends two hours trying to answer the same premise, and the tank empties early. Kyle goes from searching the entire plane, screaming at the crew and captain, and suspecting a group of Arabs (how subtle!). With every suitably terrified and/or really pissed, the captain (a very effective Sean Bean) receives a message bringing her the unthinkable truth – not only did her daughter never get on the plane, but the hospital at which Kyle’s husband died reports that Julie was killed with him as well.

To this point, the film has been an effective work at surrealism. But here’s where the meeting referenced above must have taken place, because the bottom’s out now. From here on out, viewers are going to think, &uot;Oh yeah, that MIGHT could happen,&uot; or &uot;Where did that come from?&uot; It’s not funny, it’s not exciting, and worst of all, it’s not interesting. Yeah, there’s a twist near the end, but its far too little and far too late to even remotely take seriously (as is the ending itself), even if filmgoers are often asked to suspend disbelief. Foster does fine – hey, she IS Jodie Foster

but the screenplay, again, goes into absurdity at high speed, and stays there until the credits roll.

Hey, remember that conversation I spoke of earlier? Here’s how I bet it ended after the film was shown.

The screenwriter and producer are sitting in the office, hanging out. Suddenly, Foster comes barreling in like a track star on fast forward, her eyes narrowed and seemingly ready to emit flames.

Foster: &uot;What was THAT? I thought you said you guys would have something good for me!&uot;

Producer: &uot;We thought we did, Jodie, but…&uot;

Foster: &uot;Well, you thought wrong, and you made me look bad! And you know what happens when people make me look bad.&uot;

Vivaldi begins to play, and Lecter steps in.

Lecter: &uot;Hello, boys. I must confess, I’m not getting enough fiber in my diet lately.&uot;

Producer/Screenwriter: &uot;NYAAAAAAAA….!&uot;

Grade: D