“Plane” is as simple as its name suggests: It is a story about a plane. In an age when audiences are accustomed to “Avatar”-length features and superhero films that nowadays rarely clock in below two and a half hours, “Plane” offers a refreshingly fast-paced, relatively quick visit to a remote, separatist-run island in Southeast Asia along with the passengers and crew of Trailblazer 119 (yes, that is the airline name, which I assume is their version of Spirit Airlines).
After crash landing on the island, the passengers and crew are faced with a new challenge: They are now stranded on an island without help, and they are surrounded by trigger-happy, gun-wielding separatists. It is up to Captain Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler) and unexpected ally Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter), a passenger being transported on murder charges, to save the passengers and crew and get them off the island.
The movie pulls out all the usual stops for a classic action film: a thick, unexplored jungle; several bloody-faced sequences of hand-to-hand combat; a quest to save the others; a few chuckle-worthy quips scattered throughout that mainly rely on the universal relatability of air travel; gradually-escalating shoot-outs; unrealistic bullet-dodging; and lots of guns.
The hour-and-47-minute film gives us just enough background about the pilot for us to draw a thin connection between his well-being and our happiness, but it doesn’t reach the heights of emotional connection to incite any tears should something go wrong.
We root for the Captain because the separatists are so clearly portrayed as crazy, gun-driven, hostage-seeking people that we can’t possibly prefer them, and because the Captain seems likeable and relatable enough.
What the movie lacks in emotional connection to the characters, it makes up for in filming decisions. The shots throughout the movie truly sell the action, starting from the somewhat chaotic shakiness of the plane crash that brings the audience right into the plane and cockpit alongside Captain Torrance as he copes with the reality that his plane is going down. Butler’s commitment to the character and his buddy action duo with Colter push this film upward into the category of solid action movies.
“Plane” takes no risks with the plot, and there were no dramatic twists to make me gasp, but it also checks all the boxes on the action-movie list.
It might not be extraordinarily great, but its ordinariness makes it impossible for it to be extraordinarily bad. It finds its strength in its glaring simplicity, especially in an age when filmmakers seem to be entirely committed to last-minute plot twists, shock value, complex antiheros and tragic endings.
Is this film going to make you rethink your life, or make you shuffle back into the theater the following week for a second viewing? No. But even if it might not soar to the level of 2022’s “Top Gun: Maverick,” it is the perfect watch for a quick, spontaneous Thursday-night visit to the theater or for any viewer looking for a clear-cut action movie, nothing more, nothing less. If you head into the theater with a standard expectation level, you will walk out satisfied.
3.5 out of 5 stars.