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Feature
Of the two airborne thrillers released late last year, Wes Craven's Red Eye may have received a warmer critical reception, but it was Flightplan that conquered the box office. Given the choice over again, I think I know which airline I'd rather fly with.

Flightplan
Foster plays Kyle Pratt, an aeronautics engineer living in Germany whose husband has just committed suicide, leaving her to fly his body home to the States along with her young daughter Julia. When she wakes up in the middle of the night to find her daughter is no longer in her seat, she begins to look for her, calmly at first, but with increasing panic. The flight crew are initially sympathetic, helping her search the entire cabin to no avail. With no sign of Julia anywhere and the captain (Bean) beginning to lose his patience, an air marshal (Sarsgaard) is assigned to keep an eye on Kyle for the sake of the rest of the passengers.

Further complications arise when the crew discover that her daughter isn't even on the passenger manifest. Refusing to accept this, Kyle is determined to scour every inch of the aircraft—lucky then that she designed the thing, and so has no problem accessing all sorts of hidey holes and pressing important buttons in her search for the truth. Is Julia dead or alive? Is she crazy? Does she even have a daughter?

Flightplan
Flightplan has been described as Hitchcockian in some quarters and, for part of its running time at least, that isn't as outrageous a claim as it might sound. It starts out cool and surreal like a Euro thriller and suspense is built quite nicely during the first half, since the audience doesn't know any more than Kyle does. Thanks largely to Foster's controlled portrayal of a person at emotional breaking point whose very sanity is on the line, it works very well as a paranoid psychological thriller.
Unfortunately it Hollywoods up real nice as twist begets twist and all this good work counts for nothing with the arrival of a final half hour, where logic and tension are thrown out the window and the film turns into Executive Decision 2, only without the pleasure of seeing Steven Seagal being sucked out of a plane. The third act really is bad enough to undermine the entire film and turn what could have been a crisp little thriller into a near farce, a nonsensical Die Hard rip-off that just keeps getting sillier and sillier.

Along the way there are half hearted attempts at examining post 9/11 race relations, as well as so many red herrings you'll be reeking of fish long before you hit the ground. Even more criminally than ending ridiculously, it ends interminably. Stick with Red Eye—at least it wears its pulp sensibilities on its sleeve and has the decency to touch down in time.

Flightplan
Video
The anamorphic transfer is good, but surprisingly not great. There are no problems with anything like edge enhancement, although there is little bit of ringing. The interior of the plane is generally either a cool dark blue or a brilliant white, and both these tones are well captured by a mainly sharp and clear image. The problems start to arise with some of the darker elements of the picture—there are plenty of shadows and it's not always easy to pick out details. And dark objects on dark backgrounds really suffer, particularly Jodie's black jumper that can sometimes melt into whatever is behind her.

Flightplan
Audio
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is lively and involving, with internal and external plane noises creating a very immersive sound stage, full of meaty rumbles from the LFE channel and sharp and bold effects from the fronts. The rears are also well utilised to create an all encompassing atmosphere through things like passengers talking or the P.A. system. Takeoff is a belter; a real room filler, while dialogue is never drowned out by the music. The DTS is all this and more and just adds an extra dimension of warmth and resonance.

Extras
Director Robert Schwentke provides an audio commentary that is slightly dry but informative and extremely analytical and manages to avoid the pitfalls of this is so-and-so and he was so good. He's very keen to stress the way the film was made was to illustrate Kyle's state of mind and how 9/11 changed the focus from action into a character study. He discusses audience reactions to the racial elements and overall this is a good insight into his shooting methods and rationales.

Flightplan
The meat of the extras comes in the form of the watchable documentary, ‘The In-Flight Movie: The Making of Flightplan’. Running for thirty eight minutes in total and split into five sections, it covers most of the elements of production. Screenwriters Billy Ray and Peter Dowling reveal that the script was originally written for a male protagonist but was specifically re-written for Foster. The crew discuss why she was the ideal choice, and we see the audition of the little girl who plays Julia. A look at post production has the editor talking about his approach to cutting different aspects of the film and the use of sound is analysed. Finally the visuals effects such as the plane miniature and its CGI incarnations are examined, making this a helpful and thorough little doc.

‘Cabin Pressure: Designing The Aalto E-474’ is a revealing ten minute look at the design and construction of the massive aeroplane set that was built from scratch and used to shoot almost the entire movie. From camera rails built into the ceiling to removable walls and very deliberate colour schemes, the attention to detail is amazing and this featurette captures it very well.

Flightplan
Overall
Flightplan is an average film on a pretty average disc. Your overall enjoyment of it may well depend on how much you're willing to forgive a weak conclusion when what's come before is so good—Spielberg's being doing it for years after all. But the fact is it's not just the last moments of Flightplan that don't work, it's the entire final act, and that is too serious a flaw to disregard. Personally, I'm more willing to overlook a less successful build up if there's a decent pay-off, but you may well feel differently. If that's the case then you're welcome to it.


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