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MOVIE REVIEW 'Flightplan' stops short of final destination


Published: Thu, September 22, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.


By ROGER MOORE
THE ORLANDO SENTINEL
Jodie Foster makes "Flightplan" worth watching, all by herself. As a woman who wakes up on a trans-Atlantic flight claiming that her daughter is missing, she walks that tightrope between "Is she paranoid?" and "Should she be?" with such conviction and panic that she makes this "Twilight Zone" nightmare plausible and horrific.
Then, the movie is rerouted to What-the-heck-ville, a conventional solution to a most vexing and engrossing psychological plot problem. And even Foster's Superwoman-Troubled Woman performance can't save it.
Flying alone?
In the gloom of a German winter, Kyle Pratt (Foster) escorts her dead husband's body home from Berlin. She's an aircraft designer, and she's traveling on board a new super-jumbo jet she helped plan. But is she traveling alone? Was her daughter on board with her?
The flight manifest and the flight crew (Sean Bean, Erika Christensen and Kate Beahan) say she wasn't, but they give the hysterical mom the benefit of the doubt. A too-helpful passenger sitting behind her (Peter Sarsgaard) doesn't remember. They all tear through this red-eye flight, following procedure, searching deck by deck.
"People do things to little girls," Kyle cries, urging them on, sprinting from one end of the jet to the other. "Sick things. You know that!"
When no child turns up, Kyle won't hear it. So what if she had a long chat with her dead husband pre-boarding? Never mind the medications she's on, the telltale kiddie luggage that isn't there. She knows. And since she's built this plane, she knows where to look, even when they won't let her.
She's willing to accuse any handy passenger or crew member. And she's willing to crawl into the aircraft's innards to find the girl or foil those whom she thinks took her.
The underlit, blue-grey production design helps director Robert Schwentke maintain the doubt we feel over Kyle's suspicions. With veteran villains Bean, Christensen and Sarsgaard in the cast, maybe she has a point. If it wasn't the Arab passengers, the redneck, the pilot who used to be a Bond villain (Bean), the demonic "Swimfan" (Christensen), then maybe it was that creep from "Boys Don't Cry" (Sarsgaard).
Or maybe there was no child, left behind or otherwise.
And Foster sells this concept as if her very life depended on it. The frantic urgency in her face, registering against her own uncertainty about her mental state, make Kyle another in a long list of great Foster performances.
But as we've seen a hundred times before, when you take people to 35,000 feet and put them in peril, eventually you've got to find a way to bring them down. That's where the script, a multi-hander, abandons this fabulous cast. The suspense hisses out of this like a jetliner decompressing. It happens in an instant, one more than 30 minutes from the finale.


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