Following on from the disappointing Last Seen Alive (2020), Gerard Butler finds himself on more suitable terrain for action thriller Plane. Coming from Mesrine (2008) director Jean-François Richet, Plane is exactly the film it sets out to be, a straightforward actioner with a simple back to basics approach reminiscent of the action films the likes Stallone and Schwarzenegger were making throughout the 1990’s.
Butler stars as Brodie Torrance, a former RAF pilot who now works for commercial airline Trailblazer. Flying from Singapore to Honolulu, Brodie and his passengers find themselves in danger after they are forced to fly through a storm in the South China Sea, resulting in the plane being struck by lightning.
Brodie is forced to make an emergency landing on an island in the Philippines. Unbeknownst to him is that he has landed them on Jojo Island which is run by local warlord Datu (Evan Dane Taylor’s). The island is reputed to be so dangerous that the local police or militia won’t even enter.
Although the majority of the crew and passengers survive, with homicide suspect Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter) amongst them, they will now have to try and survive what the island throws at them with Datu and his men quickly honing into their position.
Both Brodie and Gaspare forge an untrustworthy union to find help while at the same time airline owner Terry Hampton (Paul Ben-Victor) doing what he can to bring them back home, with him bringing in the expertise of ex-special forces operative Scarsdale (Tony Goldwyn) who isn’t afraid to work outside the law.
There’s nothing in Plane that most audiences haven’t seen before. It liberally cribs from multiple famous actioners, with it literally ticking the boxes of what audiences would expect to see in a modern day action movie. This isn’t a judgement, as many worthwhile movies do the same. What makes these films work is how the story is told, and in this regard Plane would be considered a success.
In no way would this be considered a classic, but director Richet keeps everything moving at a tight pace, with Plane containing several well constructed set pieces that are suitably violent to keep the pulses going.
Richet wastes no time in kicking things off, with the opening ten minutes being used to introduce our assortment of characters before kicking off with a nail biting emergency landing that is only slightly let down by some sub par CGI. Saying this, considering this is a lower budget feature in comparison to some other Butler starring vehicles, the CGI isn’t terrible, just that it has a slight video game quality to it.
After the initial emergency landing, the remainder of the film focuses on Butler and Colter having to rescue the survivors who have all been taken prisoner by a gang of Filipino criminals. This is where Richet manages to rack up the tension, with this part of the film featuring several violent encounters between our heroes and the villains, with each set piece being more violent than the last.
Proceedings are kept to a relatively tight 90 or so minutes, with the film never dragging. Actually, I felt that the film could have done with an extra 20 minutes or so to pad things out. Once the emergency landing takes place, it doesn’t feel as if our heroes are in the Philippines for that long until they are looking to flee. Before we know it the passengers have been kidnapped, with Butler and Colter planning their rescue, with this all taking place in a relatively short time frame. This is a minor complaint and at least no one could say that the film drags.
Richet doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the action. While I did expect there to be more of it, what we are shown is well handled. Richet is no stranger to action of course, showing off his skills years before in the underrated Assault on Precinct 13 (2005) remake as well as in the more recent The Emperor of Paris (2018). He brings the same skills he displayed for action with those features, albeit to a lesser degree, with Plane being smaller in scale than his previous work.
Although the plot could be considered faintly ridiculous, Richet takes a realistic approach, both in terms of the plot as well as the action. The fight scenes are more realistic than other Butler action vehicles, being more desperate, feeling like a proper struggle for the character’s life. This is partly down to the main character not being a soldier or having special training. Butler’s Brodie may be tougher than others, but at the end of the day he is still just an ordinary person thrown into extraordinary circumstances.
In regards to Butler, he is solid as usual, being the convincing action hero we have come to expect. Similarly to his character in Last Seen Alive, he is much more of an everyman in comparison to the characters he has played in the likes of Gamer (2009) and Olympus Has Fallen (2013). Here, he takes as much punishment as he manages to dish out, with him actually struggling in one fight to come out on top.
I did appreciate the filmmakers making Butler’s character Scottish this time round. The only problem with this is the fact that even though Butler hails from there, he seems to have lost the ability to use his original accent. At parts he sounds like what someone assumes a Scottish person should sound like. It doesn’t help that they have also included some extremely on the nose dialogue to further cement his Scottish heritage. A line about “Haggis, Neeps and Tatties” actually had me bursting out laughing in the theater, much to the annoyance of my fellow viewers.
Even so, this isn’t enough of a detriment to the film, and Butler is still as likeable as ever. However, as great as he is, a lot of his limelight is stolen away from him by co-star Mike Colter, whose Louis Gaspare is more the type of bad ass that Butler would normally play. The best scenes of the film are the juxtaposition between the two, with Gaspare more than willing to do what Torrance is incapable of.
Colter gives his character enough of a personality which makes up for Gaspare being somewhat underwritten. I did like how the script made his character somewhat vague, bringing about an air of unpredictability around him. We know he is a murder suspect, and at first he doesn’t exactly come across as personable. If you hadn’t seen the trailers for Plane first, you may be forgiven for thinking he could turn out to be the villain of the piece.
Thankfully for Butler and his passengers, this isn’t the case with Colter having to come to the rescue on a number of occasions, with often bloody results. One memorable sequence has him brandishing a sledgehammer to take down his opponents, with him not wasting any time in silencing them in order to not raise any alarms.
Assisting our leads is an assortment of quality supporting turns, with the standouts being Tony Goldwyn and Paul Ben-Victor. Goldwyn is especially good as the take no shit Scarsdale, a former member of the special forces who is brought in by Ben-Victor to retrieve the passengers. He seems to relish the opportunity to bark orders at people and give them abuse. Ben-Victor doesn’t get as showy a part, but it was just great to see the veteran actor in something a bit more substantial after his blink and you’ll miss it appearance in Antoine Fuqua’s Emancipation (2022).
The passengers of the plane are made up of the usual stereotypes, although the actors do what they can with their roles, with Yoson An and Daniella Pineda doing well as part of Butler’s flight crew. Typically, there are the usual arsehole types, with Joey Slotnick’s Sinclair being a clear standout. If anything, I was wishing he would get his comeuppance more than the main villain.
When it comes to the villains, the film is slightly lacking. While Evan Dane Taylor’s Datu is suitably evil, we don’t get to see him that much to truly form an impression. I wasn’t expecting him to be a fully rounded character in this type of film but I did think he should have appeared more so that the final confrontation between him and Butler packed more of a punch.
While Plane doesn’t reach the heights of Gerard Butler’s best, it is still an entertaining action thriller and the perfect film to come out in the quiet month of January, when cinemas are crying out for decent releases before the blockbuster season. It’s also great to see big Gerry once again in a film worthy of his talents and certainly whets the appetite for his upcoming Kandahar (2023) which reunites him with his Angel Has Fallen (2019) and Greenland (2020) director Ric Roman Waugh.
Plot: 3.5/5 Acting: 3.5/5 Action: 3.5/5 Overall: 3.5/5