Released 2023. Director: Jean-François Richet
GERARD BUTLER RETURNS IN YET ANOTHER ROLE tailored to his image. A muscular, protective saviour type, a dominating physical presence, a barn built of bluestone in a Category-5 hurricane. The man could’ve been the successor to Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis in the action-man arena though for some reason he’s not, which is a bit of a pity. As an action figure Butler’s characters are less cheesy, more human. They don’t do wisecracks or flex muscles to show off. They’re not invincible and quite often need help and even when thrown in ridiculous situations more believable than John Wick. And yet Butler remains stuck in lower-tier projects and hasn’t reached the level of headlining a tentpole spectacle in the style of Chris Hemsworth or Dwayne Johnson or reigning champion Tom Cruise.
In the mundanely titled Plane, Butler plays Brodie Torrance, a pilot who has to confront a lot more than mid-air turbulence. On a flight from Singapore to Tokyo, the aircraft is struck by lightning in a vicious storm. Power is cut and the navigation system goes down. The plane is flying blind in the dark before Torrance attempts a death-defying landing on the nearest landfall, which happens to be a small Filipino island taken over by separatists ready to pounce on any foreigner.
What follows is a series of nasty encounters with terrorist militia, terrified passengers being taken hostage and a charitable amount of high-powered weapon exchange. Torrance mostly relies on his smarts, daring and gym-trained muscles to overpower his opponents before the ordeal quickly escalates into an all-out ammo assault when the mercenary rescue team dispatched by the airline drops in.
There are moments of solid kick-arse action, filmed with vigor and punch. Butler rips through some bone-crunching fight sequences with heft and a sense of physicality. It’s macho but without the boastful swagger. The physical combat choreography is more enjoyable than when they start blasting away with automatic weapons, which is rather par for the course for the genre.
Torrance is just about the only character given some measure of back story for interest. He has made a promise to spend some time with his daughter after the flight and he’s even ready to sacrifice his own life to give his passengers a chance to escape. Most of the other characters don’t really get any opportunity to stamp an impression except Gaspare (Mike Colter), an extradited prisoner whose routine criminal character gets a small tweak and becomes a sidekick of sorts. A passenger named Sinclair is the token prick to represent self-centred entitlement but nothing happens in the end as if he’s been forgotten in the melee. The chief of the separatist band of army Datu Junmar looks fierce but the movie rushes past him without getting a fair chance to become a memorable villain. As far as jungle warfare goes, the alien in Predator has more personality.
For a simplistic and action-focused popcorn-munching diversion, Plane is bland but watchable as it flies from A to B without frills, certainly no business class on a full-service airline, more like a short hop on a budget carrier.
That said, even as a B-grade mediocrity low on the radar, this movie deserves a more interesting, considered, and dare I say, cool title. Along with 65, the dinosaur movie starring Adam Driver, these two are in contention for the most lifeless and dull title of 2023. Calling the movie Plane is like calling Top Gun “Jets”, The Hunt for Red October “Submarine”, Snowpiercer “Train”, or the Fast & Furious movies simply “Cars”.
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