Movie Review: Plane

I recently had a discussion with a friend about knowing your brand. When your branding is clear and consistent, your customers will know what to expect from you and your company. While most successful companies have very clear branding (some companies are successful in spite of themselves), branding is equally important in Hollywood. Tom Cruise has a very clear brand — high adrenaline action. Tom Hanks has a clear brand — morality and trust. When you see any of their films, you know exactly what you’re going to get. Gerard Butler seems to have figured this out too, and his films in recent years have all been consistent and have been well received by his fans even if the critics have been less deferential. His company, G-Base, has produced a string of hits including his “HAS FALLEN” series, DEN OF THIEVES and GREENLAND, and reports are that the actor-producer has done very well financially from this strategy. Butler is now back on the big screen with the woefully lame title of PLANE. Like his other films, it’s filled with more brawn than brains.

Brodie Torrance (Butler) is a commercial pilot for Trailblazer Airlines. On a routine flight out of Singapore on New Year’s Eve that is supposed to take its passengers to Honolulu via Tokyo, his plane is hit by lightning, knocking out its avionics and communications. Miraculously, Torrance lands the plane somewhere in the Jolo Islands, an area of the Philippines that is controlled by gangs, terrorists and separatists who wouldn’t think twice about taking them hostage. Once on the ground, Torrance heads off into the jungle to look for a phone, taking with him Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter, TV’s LUKE CAGE), a fugitive who was being extradited back to Canada (via Japan???) to face murder charges. In charge is co-pilot Sam Dele (Yoson An, MULAN; THE MEG), who tries to keep everyone safe while getting the plane’s avionics working again. Meanwhile, back at Trailblazer headquarters, airline CEO Terry Hampton (Paul Ben-Victor, EMANCIPATION) and former Special Forces officer Scarsdale (Tony Goldwyn, KING RICHARD; GHOST) are working on their own plan to get the passengers and crew out safely.

As I said, with a Gerard Butler film, you know what you’re going to get and PLANE is no exception. It’s got plenty of testosterone-fueled action, respectable performances, capable direction by Jean-François Richet and not much more. If you can ignore the plot holes like an airline that flies just 14 passengers on a trans-Pacific route or that Torrance had never met Dele before, the hokey lines like “Okay, mon capitaine”, or that the bad guys couldn’t hit the side of a barn with their semi-automatic rifles if they tried, you might find yourself being entertained. The best things about PLANE are its leanness, coming in at just 107 minutes, and its absence of cheesy sentimentality. My audience particularly enjoyed it when Dele told his captors that his country was Hong Kong. These days, talk like that is verboten here as it hurts the feelings of 1.4 billion Chinese people. To be honest, I’m surprised that it made it past our censors.

PLANE opens in Hong Kong on Thursday (February 2nd). If you’re looking for some mindless entertainment, you can do far worse than this film.

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