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Recently widowed aircraft engineer Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) is returning from Berlin to New York with her husband's coffin. Travelling with her on the giant E-474 jumbo jet she helped design is her 6 year-old daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston). Soon after take off, Julia disappears and no trace of her can be found. Kyle's nightmare worsens and her sanity comes into question when she is told there is no record of Julia having boarded the plane and no passengers can remember seeing the girl. Placed in the care of Air Marshal Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard), Kyle's attempt to find Julia pushes her to the physical and emotional limits.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
With two and a half good acts out of three and a charismatic Jodie Foster holding at the centre, Flightplan warrants the fare for paying passengers. A more satisfying airborne nightmare than the recent Red Eye, Flightplan is cleverly pieced together, a thriller that actually takes into account the intelligence of the viewer until plot convenience forces an emergency landing in the final reel.

The screenplay by Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray is not perfect in its wrapping-up procedure, but knows what to do with the opening gambit of propelling an innocent with some degree of psychological vulnerability into a succession of situations that on first look seem impossible to escape from. By laying the groundwork carefully in the early scenes set in Berlin, Dowling and Ray are able to answer the logic and credibility questions the audience will ask as they unfold the potentially preposterous idea of a young child disappearing into thin air at 37,000 feet. Clever writing and Foster's finely judged performance are crucial in keeping this hook alive.

In a role not dissimilar to her fiercely protective and instinctive mother in Panic Room, Foster artfully presents as a heroine who has suffered emotional shock and is on medication - reason enough for us, and her, to believe her grip on reality is slipping. Yet she does not plunge into the hysterics and gung-ho heroics in a lesser, more pulpy telling of the tale. She uses brain and guile to navigate a way around the justifiable scepticism of Captain Rich (Sean Bean), Air Marshall Carson (Peter Sarsgaard) and a smartly assembled roster of passengers and in-flight crew, any number of whom could easily turn saviour or conspirator.

The basic guessing game is a good one and is ably assisted by the imaginative compositions and smooth widescreen camera work of Florian Ballhhaus, who has clearly learnt much from his famous father Michael. Credit also to director Robert Schwentke, who made the slick thriller Tattoo a few years ago in his native Germany and would appear to have a promising future in the genre on the strength of this big-budget Brian Grazer production. On the down side there is the all-to frequent problem of a conclusion that seems rushed, improbable and unnecessarily convoluted. In most thrillers this combination is enough to tear the whole playhouse down, but here the damage is less severe. Sure, it doesn't quite add up in the final stretch but almost everything that's preceded it has been pretty cleverly worked out.

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(US, 2005)

CAST: Jodie Foster, Sean Bean, Peter Sarsgaard, Kate Beahan, Erika Christensen

PRODUCER: Brian Grazer

DIRECTOR: Robert Schwentke

SCRIPT: Peter Dowling and Billy Ray


EDITOR: Thom Noble

MUSIC: James Horner


RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 10, 2005

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