Jan 18, 2023 | Posted by in Movies

A commercial aircraft is forced to make a crash landing in the middle of a war zone in Jean-François Richet’s Plane.

Mid-budget action movies feel like a rarity in the current cinema climate. High-budget tentpole blockbusters are frequent and one-shot disposable action movies often get relegated to home or streaming release. Plane made it into cinemas and makes a strong case for not losing the opportunity to see films like this in the cinema.

This is your Captain speakingGerard Butler plays Brodie Torrance; a pilot flying a small number of passengers on New Year’s Eve. What is supposed to be a routine trip quickly shifts into disaster territory when a lightning strike renders the plane without power, forcing Torrance to make a crash landing on the smoothest ground he can find. Unfortunately, he lands the plane in a middle of a war zone and is quickly thrown into a battle for the survival of his passengers and crew.

This sort of film plays to Butler’s strengths as an action lead. He’s believable as a capable everyman, easily likeable and doesn’t steal focus from others in the cast. Torrance’s competence and calm-headed crisis response is justified by mention of him once being in the RAF. Otherwise, he’s a fairly normal guy who is defined by his professionalism and commitment to those he considers to be his responsibility. He has very few traits beyond that but it’s a strong foundation for the character and Butler’s natural charisma carries the film nicely.

Other characters are a mixed bag. His co-pilot, Dele (Yoson An) gets some attention by sharing some endearing interactions with Torrance that quickly establish a friendly yet professional working relationship. He has the opportunity to step up when Torrance leaves the landing site to seek help and acquits himself well. It’s a good example of a script and actor doing a lot with relatively little.


Beware the passengers

Mike Colter’s Louis Gaspare stands out and works well with Butler’s Torrance. He comes with a built-in skillset ideally suited to the surroundings and is a reasonable example of the noble criminal trope. The film delivers a quick summation of his past but doesn’t dwell on it which means it comes across as a narrative means to an end but when the plot really kicks in he’s a strong presence and fits naturally into what the film looks to accomplish. Mike Colter plays the character well, standing out without being overwhelming.

The film suffers when it comes to characterising the passengers and crew. Daniella Pineda is criminally underused as the lead Flight Attendant Bonnie and the other members of the flight crew scarcely have a line between them. The same applies to the passengers with some of them being given high-level traits when they chime in with opinions periodically but they don’t stand out and minimal effort is made to give the audience people to invest in. A collection of normal people in mortal danger in a war zone is an unmistakably tragic situation but the personal touch is missing which devalues the jeopardy. The passenger compliment of the flight is notably small so it should have been possible to do more with the group of endangered civilians beyond making them nigh anonymous potential cannon fodder. A similar problem exists for those that threaten the unlucky travellers. The enemies are one-note caricatures who are cruel and sadistic for the sake of being cruel and sadistic. They do what the film requires but nothing else.

Plane achieves mild scope by cutting to the airline’s headquarters and detailing no-nonsense PR, Scarsdale’s (Tony Goldwyn’s) attempts to resolve the situation quickly with as little loss of life as possible. These interludes help set up the resolution, provide entertainment through Scarsdale’s blunt intolerance for excuses or incompetence and offer natural breaks in the action. Tony Goldwyn is endlessly entertaining in the role and makes great use of his limited screen time.


Can I speak to your manager please?

The film goes some way towards making up for its inconsistent characterisation through excellent pacing and sharp storytelling. It moves along at an excellent clip, never slowing down long enough to become boring and there’s enough variety in the storytelling to keep the audience’s attention. The variety in the set pieces is impressive and each of them is engaging in their own way.

Torrance’s crash landing is impressively tense with a strong command of time to highlight how short the timeframe is while detailing how painful it is to be in the midst of those minutes. It’s urgent but moves slowly enough to build palpable nervous energy before culminating in the inevitable contact with the ground. Later there is an impressively inelegant fight sequence between Torrance and an enemy combatant that fully sells Torrance scrambling for survival by taking any opening he can get to fight back. It’s a brawl and every punch is felt. Stealth sequences also feature and they’re wonderfully tense. The finale is a big, dumb, entertaining shoot-out so the film can never be accused of being repetitive but the ending in general abandons any semblance of common sense in favour of something fully ridiculous. It does stand out but is far from a deal-breaker.

Plane succeeds more than it doesn’t. It’s far from flawless but it’s a well-directed mid-budget action movie that is excellently placed, provides a variety of entertaining set pieces and has a capable lead in Gerard Butler. Effort was put into this which makes it more than worth its lean running time.


A full service airline


A well-directed mid-budget action movie with excellent pacing, a variety of entertaining set pieces and a capable lead in Gerard Butler that succeeds far more than it doesn’t. Gerard Butler is believable as a capable everyman and carries the film well. He works well with Mike Colter and never overpowers the film with his presence which gives Colter the opportunity to stand out. The other characters are mixed bag; in particular, the cabin crew and passengers are mostly a narrative means to an end though the film does offer scope by cutting to the airline headquarters and the endlessly entertaining Scarsdale. The pacing is excellent and the storytelling is sharp with a variety of set pieces preventing it from ever becoming boring. Common sense is abandoned at the end but it’s far from a deal-breaker.

  • Plane


Kneel Before…

  • Gerard Butler as a believably capable every man
  • the strong dynamic Gerard Butler shares with Mike Colter
  • excellent pacing
  • sharp storytelling
  • a variety of distinct and entertaining set pieces


Rise Against…

  • thin characterisation devaluing the jeopardy
  • an ending that abandons common sense
  • weak villains


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