You cannot reasonably complain about a film called ‘Plane’ being silly or trashy. That title, an act of almost heroically little effort, is telling you to expect the bare minimum. If they couldn’t be bothered to jazz the title up with so much as a kicky adjective or even an exclamation mark, how much effort do you think went into the script? If you buy your ticket thinking you’re going to see a dazzling new take on the genre, well, that’s on you.
Turns out, the horrible title is a minor masterstroke. Plane sets the bar of expectation low then glides cheerfully over it. It’s riddled with plot holes; populated by characters so sketchy that some – even lead ones – are barely more fleshed out at the end than they were at the beginning; and it all proceeds largely as you’d imagine. But it’s fun. Ridiculous, pacy, unselfconscious fun. It’s all focused on the audience’s entertainment. No indulgent emotional moments. No needlessly complicated plotting. Just efficient carnage. Ironically, it’s the sort of film that would be immensely enjoyable to watch on a plane, if it weren’t for all the crashing.
Brodie Torrance (Gerard Butler) is piloting a commercial flight from Singapore to Tokyo on New Year’s Eve. It’s almost empty – just 14 passengers and one extra, a convicted murderer (Mike Colter) being moved to a new prison. It should be an easy trip on Torrance’s way home to see his daughter, but the plane hits a storm, gets struck by lightning and crash lands on an island near the Philippines. Most survive, but the crash was the easy bit. The island is run by a violent gang that thinks nothing of holding foreigners to ransom, or just killing them if they fancy it.
This is just the kind of tosh you want it to be
As you’ve likely guessed, Torrance and the convict, Louis Gaspare, reluctantly team up to save the passengers and form an unlikely bond. Gaspare is barely written, but he has a military background and knows how to use every conceivable weapon, and that’s enough. His role is to kill bad guys and give Torrance someone to be brawny with. Colter does it well.
Butler again demonstrates that he’s probably the most fun of the current pantheon of elder action stars. Less self-serious than Liam Neeson, less winking than Jason Statham, he gives his grizzled all to whatever nonsense he finds himself in. As Torrance, he takes his punches with conviction and delivers his kiss-off lines without embarrassment.
This is just the kind of tosh you want it to be. Brisk, easy, brutish. It has explosions, punch-ups, shoot-outs and more than one bit where someone gets smacked in the face with a big hammer. How much more could you reasonably ask? It’s a blast. Or to put it with the same descriptive eloquence as the title: Plane good.
In US theaters now. In UK and Australian cinemas Jan 27.