‘Plane’ Review: Flight, Camera, Action

In this thriller, Gerard Butler and Mike Colter have to avoid a hostage situation and deliver a plane full of passengers to safety.

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By Glenn Kenny

Jesters on social media have already begun chortling about this movie’s minimalist title. Where did the snakes go?

The movie’s basic designation is not without precedent. Some of you may remember “Airport” and its several sequels. Most of those movies spent the majority of their time in the air rather than in the terminal, so maybe it figures that most of the action in this thriller, directed by Jean-François Richet and starring Gerard Butler and Mike Colter (“Luke Cage”), is set on the ground.

The twist is that this ground is unsafe in a way that a boarding gate rarely is. Butler plays Brodie, a pilot whose Singapore-to-Tokyo flight — after which he is to reunite with his beloved daughter, because of course — is downed by violent weather. With his co-pilot and fellow family man Dele (Yoson An), Brodie manages a landing on an unidentified island run by “separatists and militias,” whose leader, Junmar (Evan Dane Taylor), has the nasty habit of ransoming, and sometimes killing, hostages. Brodie, determined to deliver his passengers to safety, powers through the jungle in search of a way to communicate with home.

If you guessed that the handcuffed convict who’s part of the flight’s manifest is actually a not-wholly-bad guy looking for a shot at redemption, go to the head of the class. Playing that part, Colter makes a good match with the stalwart Butler. Half a world away, Tony Goldwyn clenches his jaw in a kitted-out corporate conference room as the only honest crisis manager in the airline biz.

This is a pacey item that can be recommended on the grounds that it’s a January release that’s not even close to awful. “Plane” sinks (or rises, depending on your perspective) to “hell yeah” ridiculousness only at the end, delivering a punchline that lands at the right time.

Rated R for bloody violence and language. Running time: 1 hour 47 minutes. In theaters.

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