Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Knee-jerk Response to Flightplan

Sometimes film critics, including myself, have strong positive or negative reactions to movies which is based more on emotions, personal taste and private gripes than on legitimate film analysis based on structure, scripting, craft, performance, history and theory. Often the border between gut instinct and intellectual-artistic analysis is blurred and critics at all levels make mistakes, misjudgments or overreactions. The Film Walrus understands this and acknowledges its own susceptibility.

Such knee-jerk responses, as I will call them, are not always bad if they are acknowledged for what they are: highly personal and specific reactions that may or may not apply to the majority of other viewers. At best they can be more amusing and full of more passion and vitriol than a legitimate review should allow.

That’s why The Film Walrus will now include knee-jerk responses for movies which I don’t want to spend the time treating fully (some may not merit it). It saves me from having to sully the term ‘review’ which I maintain should (in a perfect world) judge objectively with all the cinematic qualities dually weighed and analyzed.

The first knee-jerk response goes to “Flightplan” (2005) [SPOILERS ALERT] which angered me greatly for a variety of reasons. This is sad because it is evident that a large amount of time and money which went into the films visual look and polished atmosphere (particularly in the first 15 minutes). As the plot gets underway things slide into rote thriller mode with a mystery posed that is initially quite captivating: how can a girl disappear during an international flight?

The problem is that everything, and I mean everything, is sacrificed for the last act plot twist. This has occurred in so many movies over the last ten years I ought to do a shameless rant. “Flightplan” is a particularly guilty party. I submit my reasons:

1) Neglecting obvious plot holes above and beyond suspension of disbelief.

2) Constructing a conspiracy that requires people in half a dozen powerful positions to be gutsy, easily corruptible and capable of callous child murder.

3) Relying on a series of chance events to coincidently fall into place (the entire evil plot hinges on the assumption that hundreds of potential witnesses simply “wouldn’t care” enough to blindly allow a child abduction).

4) Having the sheer gall to play audience’s presumed latent-racist assumptions as a prolonged, preachy red herring.

There are other problems such as Peter Sarsgaard’s unconvincing performance, the villain’s “before I kill you let me explain my plan” speeches and a mildly offensive amount of “Hollywood justice” wherein anything the protagonist does is OK even if it is insane, dangerous or outright criminal. Hey, it’s Jodie Foster and someone has stolen her precious little girl, so of course she can risk several hundred lives by messing with the plane’s circuitry. Honestly though, there are plenty of good reasons (especially on the technical and production value aspects) to be entertained by this movie, but my knee-jerk response is to jump out of a plane.

On a side note, anyone who does like this movie should see Hitchcock’s 1938 thriller “The Lady Vanishes.” It is a far superior film with the same basic premise but set on a train and with a beautifully constructed and executed plot twist. Hitchcock fans will have noted “Flightplan’s” many nods towards the earlier classic thriller.

1 comment:

Mad Dog said...

Yeah, this looked completely unworthy of the time and money it would take to see. They can't all be Panic Room!