There used to be movies like Plane all the time. If Plane had come out in the ’90s, it would be called Deadly Turbulence, or something like that, get terrible reviews, and probably make a lot of money. It reminds me a little of movies like Executive Decision, which, when it came out, made money and was enjoyable enough. (Rewatching Executive Decision recently, when compared to the all CGI movies we get today, it feels like some sort of action movie masterpiece.) Now, Plane, first, has to have a unique title like Plane to garner attention on social media, which it certainly has. And now a movie like Plane is so rare and such a throwback, it comes off as a refreshing breather from what we usually get fed at theaters these days. Like its title, Plane is a tight and to-the-point movie and I had a whole lot of fun watching it. (Also, as a bonus, like most movies from that era, once the plot is wrapped up, it “just ends.”)
Also, it is remarkable that one of the few actors who seems immune to the direction movies are going today is Gerard Butler. He’s never gone down the superhero route, though I’m sure he certainly could if he wanted to. But why would he? He produces his movies and has a lot of creative control over the final product. Also, producing movies that make money is a lucrative career. Why would he give up his time spent making his own movies to agree to six Marvel movies, or whatever it is these days? Gerard Butler, for the time being at least, seems to have one of the best positions in filmmaking today. If I’m him, I’d just keep making movies like Plane for as long as I possibly could.
In Jean-François Richet’s Plane, Butler plays Brodie Torrance, a commercial airline pilot stuck doing lousy routes because he once got into an altercation with an obnoxious and rowdy passenger. On an overnight flight out of Tokyo, a cost-conscious executive makes the decision to send Brodie’s flight through a storm as opposed to using extra fuel to go around it. A lightning strike knocks out the power on the plane, forcing Brodie to ditch in the ocean … if not for being saved at the last moment a small island on the horizon.
Unfortunately, this island is run by warring militias and now, having pulled off a miracle landing, the airline doesn’t know where to look for them and Brodie has to keep his crew and passengers safe from the militias. A good decision made about the plot of this movie is that it wasn’t a full flight. So there aren’t that many passengers, which allows us as a viewer to kind of get to know their personalities (a few of them aren’t thrilled with the current situation), which raises the stakes when they are in danger. But complicating this, one of the passengers (Mike Colter) is a prisoner accused of murder being transported by a federal agent. And, wouldn’t you know it, the federal agent doesn’t survive the crash. So now Brodie has to also figure out this particular situation as well. (It’s probably not too surprising to learn there’s a lot more to Colter’s character than what we are initially told.) So, yes, Brodie Torrance has quite a bit on his plate. And leading the search and rescue operation is a kind of awesome Tony Goldwyn who is playing one of those kind of characters we don’t see as often anymore who, by god, just knows how to get things done.
Plane is the kind of movie in which Gerard Butler literally flies a plane into a bad guy. (For the record, I applauded.) I think everyone involved knows what they are doing by naming this movie Plane. It’s such a, frankly, nonsense title, it’s hard to ignore, to the point it becomes a genius title. But the little trick up Plane’s sleeve is the movie actually delivers. It never gets convoluted or caught up in itself like movies with meta-sounding titles sometimes tend to do. It’s a ’90s style, R-rated action movie that just keeps moving, with very little fat, and delivers some true applause moments. (There’s one moment in particular when Butler is giving a rousing speech to his passengers about what they had to do next to survive that is a phenomenal action movie moment. It involves a plane.)
I am not naive to the point I think Plane could signal a return to fun action movies being an actual option at the local cineplex. Last year’s Ambulance had some similar attributes – a movie that I consider one of my favorites of 2022 – but never caught on at the box office. (For the record, Plane has far fewer drone shots.) But we just have to hope Gerard Butler can continue this streak and keep delivering this particular type of R-rated action movie … because he’s about the only one left who can.
‘Plane’ opens in theaters nationwide this weekend. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.