Plane, by Albert W. Vogt III

What I saw this weekend was a Plane old, okay new, movie.  Actually, I thought of that pun before I got to the theater.  It is also nice when your predictions in pun form come true.  This is also not to say it is a bad movie.  It is not a great one, either.  Hence, pun becomes reality.  I do not know much else to say about it by way of introducing it.  There are exciting parts.  There are dumbs parts.  Ultimately, none of it is memorable and I will be moving on with my life.

With a title like Plane, you can expect a pilot to be a major character in the story.  In this case, it is Captain Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler).  He works for a low rent, but international airlines.  It is New Year’s Eve and he is hoping the last leg of his journey will bring him to his daughter, Daniela (Haleigh Hekking), who is waiting for him in Maui.  Despite being late for his flight, he assures her that he will be there on time.  And, indeed, everything seems to be pointing in that direction.  They are in Singapore, it is early morning, and they have a lightly booked aircraft for their trip to Tokyo.  There are two factors of interest.  The first is that one of their passengers is a convicted murderer, Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter), who is being extradited back to the United States under armed guard.  The other is the weather.  Along their route is a brewing storm.  Captain Torrance requests permission to go around it.  Their company man in Singapore says that, owing to fuel costs and the relative light weight of their load, they need to fly above it.  Surely nothing will go wrong, right?  The inevitable comes in the form of lightning striking the plane.  With everything dead, including any way of sending their location, Captain Torrance manages to land on a remote island in the southern Philippines.  With two of the passengers dying in the turbulence, including the person watching Louis, the rest act like annoyed tourists instead of being grateful for having survived this ordeal.  Captain Torrance is honest with them about their situation, particularly about how difficult it might be to be found.  Trying his best to ignore the complaints, he and Samuel Dele (Yoson An), the co-pilot, try to see what they can do about getting the plane working again so they can at least give away their position.  As they are sorting out their existence, back in the United States the airline brings in a crisis manager named Scarsdale (Tony Goldwyn).  As a former special forces operator, he is used to dealing with tough situations.  What he tells them to do is to prepare for any potential scenario the media might throw at them until they have gathered more information.  Back on the island, Captain Torrance decides he is going to try to make it to a compound he spotted as they were landing.  In order to calm the other passengers, he decides to take Louis with him, freeing the felon from his handcuffs.  As they go along, Louis says that his crime for which he has been captured was a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Instead of facing justice, he fled and joined the French Foreign Legion.  This backstory is about 100 years too late, but whatever.  Captain Torrance manages to find a phone while Samuel is able to get some of the plane’s electrical systems working again.  This is not all Captain Torrance finds.  What becomes apparent, and had been hinted at by Samuel, is that they are in a part of the Philippines that is controlled by a group of separatists and not the Filipino government.  These are not peace-loving rebels, either, but ones that take hostages and execute them if ransom is not paid.  Unsurprisingly, while he and Louis are out snooping around, the rest of the passengers and crew are captured by the separatists.  Samuel’s efforts, though, help the airline to be able to get a satellite fix on the plane’s location.  Because it is in a place that the Filipino army does not go with anything less than a battalion of soldiers, it is going to take time to mount a rescue mission by them.  Instead, Scarsdale turns to a group of mercenaries he knows with what he hopes is enough cash and guns to buy/shoot their way out of this situation.  They get to the island shortly after Captain Torrance and Louis decide on their own to retrieve the crew and passengers.  They are successful, too, but Captain Torrance realizes that in order for the rest to get away, they are going to need a distraction.  To give them one, he decides to give himself up.  This works, but just before he is to be executed, the mercenaries come to his aid.  From there, it is a mad dash back to the plane.  Captain Torrance’s plan now is to use it to get off the island.  With the mercenaries buying him the necessary time, he is able to get their bird prepped for flight.  The person who does not get on board as it takes off is Louis.  Instead, he finds the money meant for the separatists and escapes into the jungle.  Over the objections of the airline, and with only one engine, Captain Torrance is able to take off and make the short flight to a neighboring island where there is a friendly runway.  Once safely down, the passengers are finally thankful to him, and he is able to call his daughter and tell her, gun shot wounds, he is okay.

As I said in my introduction to Plane, there are exciting and dumb parts.  I will start with the dumb.  Having joining the French Foreign Legion in Louis’ backstory falls in this category.  His character overall is probably the weakest aspect of the movie.  I get what they were going for with him, but his story arc is never completed.  You have a solid protagonist in Captain Torrance.  With Louis, the idea is that there will be added tension.  Can you really trust somebody convicted of murder?  Ultimately, Captain Torrance makes the choice to do so, and there is never a moment when Louis betrays him.  Perhaps if we had seen more of a conflict with Louis in choosing between helping the passengers and saving himself, this would have worked better?  This is evened out by how good of a character is Captain Torrance.  He puts the welfare of his crew and passengers above himself, and that is something this Catholic reviewer can always get behind.  Now, I do not know much about flying a plane.  Yet, because he genuinely seems like a good guy, I found myself worrying most about him and rooting for him to pull off the seemingly impossible.  I will have to ask my pilot friend if he has seen this movie to see what he thinks of it.  However, that will likely not happen until after this is published.  Oh well.

What Plane is, and what makes it not a memorable film, an action film.  I suppose the setting is not something you see in most as I cannot remember too many that take place in the Philippines.  Still, there is plenty of bang-bang/boom-boom.  That is an increasingly yawn inducing cinematic experience for me despite the admittedly exciting parts.  There are some moments that caught my Catholic eye.  Some of this you can probably guess at already, like Captain Torrance’s willingness to sacrifice himself.  What I will focus on is short line by Louis.  He mentions in passing, and it is meant to be part of his unfulfilled character arc, that a French priest in the Legion once said that redemption often can be found in unusual places.  While I would suggest that running off into the jungle with thousands of dollars is not a sign of redemption, I like the sentiment anyway.  It relates to how God speaks to us, and underscores how tricky it can sometimes be to hear His voice.  We can call out to God day and night and only have the slightest idea of how He will speak to us.  Who knows?  Maybe He will respond exactly as we expect.  In reality, God’s will for our lives is bigger than we can hope to comprehend, and it takes letting go of our preconceptions of how it should work in order to begin to understand it.  I see this more in how the passengers come to appreciate Captain Torrance.  They did not believe he could save them, or get the plane to fly again.  Yet, this is exactly what happens.  They made not have had a choice, but they put their trust in something beyond their control and they were saved.  That is a pretty cool concept.

I was shocked by how many people were in the theater to see Plane.  It has also gotten high ratings on Rotten Tomatoes.  There is truly no accounting for such things.  In reality, it is a mediocre movie that will likely be forgotten before too long.  In the meantime, despite some violence, it is a fairly acceptable form of entertainment.

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