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Movie review: Gerard Butler makes 'Plane' a decent popcorn thriller

This latest offering in "Plane" might just be worth checking out for fans of popcorn flicks.

PORTLAND, Maine — [Editor's note: This article is a critical analysis of a film and doesn't represent the views of NEWS CENTER Maine, but that of the author.]

Action movies released during January don't usually have much to offer their audience. 

The month is typically regarded as a wasteland for movies, and yet, this latest offering in "Plane" might just be worth checking out for fans of popcorn flicks.  

The Story

The film's title doesn't leave much to the imagination, and what you see is mostly what you get. "Plane" is a story about a passenger aircraft flying from Singapore to Tokyo that gets struck by lightning. 

Gerard Butler stars as Captain Brodie Torrance, the man responsible for making sure his fried airplane lands safely on the ground. After a tense and entertaining sequence where he and his co-pilot, Hajan (Claro de los Reyes), work through the challenges of navigation and determining how much time the aircraft has left before hitting the ground, they manage to land the plane safely. 

They bring the plane down on a mining road in the jungle on an island in the Philippines.

Most of the passengers and crew survive, though a flight attendant and a law enforcement officer extraditing a murder suspect die in the turbulence.

Hajan informs the captain they shouldn't expect a search and rescue party because the island they've landed on is controlled by separatists and militias. 

With the plane's electronics fried, Torrance is stuck without even a transponder for airline officials to track. This leaves few options, so Torrance frees the murder suspect, a former soldier in the French Foreign Legion named Gaspare (Mike Colter), to travel with him and seek help. 

While they are gone, the plane's remaining passengers and crew are taken as hostages by a militia commander named Dele (Yoson An). Torrance is successful in making contact with his daughter, but the phone is quickly destroyed, leaving him uncertain of how much information got through. 

When he and Gaspare return to the plane, they discover the hostages taken and are now faced with the grim task of rescuing them all and getting off the island. 


"Plane" doesn't look like much in its trailers, but the film manages to be a decent popcorn thriller. Butler isn't playing some heavily-trained commando. He's a Scottish pilot who served in the Royal Air Force for a while. So his character is a bit more grounded than in past roles like in the "Olympus Has Fallen" trilogy. 

He takes quite a few hits and gets shot a couple of times. At his core, Torrance seems like a good guy just trying to get his passengers home safely. 

Though they have smaller roles, Reyes and Daniella Pineda (who plays a member of the flight crew named Bonnie) end up stealing the show. Butler will likely draw the usual action fans, but it's Reyes and Pineda who most viewers will likely remember when the credits roll. 

"Plane" harkens back to the action-thrillers of the 1990s, like "Air Force One" and "Speed." They're not going to win any awards. Their only job is to entertain audiences eating popcorn and drinking soda while trying not to be offensively boring. It's a bonus if an action flick manages to include a coherent story and halfway decent cinematography. 

The action sequences in "Plane" certainly get the job done. There are plenty of shootouts, knife fights, and a particularly tense hand-to-hand battle between Torrence and an attacker that's filmed surprisingly well and up close. 

And yet, perhaps the best part of the movie ends up being the opening sequence when Torrance has to get his airplane safely on the ground without power. The movie takes several minutes to show what the process of calculating an emergency landing looks like with manual timing and math. 

Between that and a few dad jokes, Butler delivers a decent action-thriller movie. 

Also playing this week

"House Party" is another film opening in theaters this week. The comedy film stars Jacob Latimore and Tosin Cole and is a reboot of the 1990 movie by the same title

To see which movies are playing at a theater near you, click here

For more movie thoughts, follow Courtney on Twitter, here

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