January isn’t typically a kind month to moviegoers. With award season in the rearview mirror for most of us, and the Sundance Film Festival ramping up for others, January/February are notorious “dump months.” Usually filled with movies films studios have no faith in, hoping to make a quick buck, it’s a shock we’ve been treated to not just one — M3GAN — but two outings worth your time and money.
Plane, however, is more surprising. Prior to the screening, and even now, I have not watched a trailer. If I had, my expectations would probably have been set pretty low. A pedestrian-sounding January action flick with Gerard Butler? Who knew crash landings, and getting stuck on an island, could still make for an intense time at the theater.
Pilot Brodie Torrance (Butler) is heading from his station in Singapore to Maui, to reconnect with his daughter, Daniela (Haleigh Hekking). What should be a routine flight turns into more than they thought. On board is Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter), a man being extradited for homicide. And they lose power from a lightning strike, leaving them stranded on the remote Philippine island Jolo. Now, Brodie must find a way to keep his passengers safe, while former Special Forces officer Scarsdale (Tony Goldwyn) helps guide a rescue mission, pitting everyone in a race against time with the local militia hot on their heels.
Plane is exactly the kind of mindless fun we hope for in a January release, but rarely get. It never sets out to try to be anything more than it is, yet has enough stakes for the characters to keep you invested. Butler continues to show that he’s capable of being more than mid-tier Russell Crowe, and still knows how to throw his weight around in a fight scene.
Director Jean-François Richet (Assault on Precinct 13) also manages to give us two pretty intense scenes revolving around the titular plane. The first along the lines of a more realistic version of the first Final Destination vision. Plane is a definite crowd pleaser — there was a fair amount of cheering during the finale — and the runtime flies by for being more moderate with its pacing. Strap in and buckle up for the year’s first whiteknuckler!