de facto film reviews 2 stars

Gerard Butler has managed to carve out a successful path for himself as one of Hollywood’s few remaining action stars still selling tickets at the box office. While most have either seen their career fade or have moved into the streaming space, there aren’t many other like Butler to balance out your Tom Cruise’s or Keanu Reeves. Butler’s latest, the amusingly simplistic titled Plane, is an old fashioned meat-and-potatoes actioner that does little to distinguish itself from the crop of other, better films from the genre.

Skilled airplane pilot, Captain Brodie Torrance (Butler) is in command of a small commercial flight headed from Singapore to Hawaii. After being struck by lightening during a storm, Captain Brodie manages to save everyone on board by landing on an island in the South Philippines. Could be worse, at least they’re not flying Southwest. If having to survive stranded on an island wasn’t bad enough, it’s revealed the island is lawless and belongs to local separatists that take the passengers hostage. It’s up to Brodie with the help as Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter), an accused murderer that was being transferred by federal agents, to save the hostages and signal for help. 

Director Jean-Francois Richet is a sturdy action helmer with past highlights being the immensely entertaining Mel Gibson DTV actioner Blood Father and the underrated 2005 remake of Assault on Precinct 13. This is a filmmaker that excels in the b-level action flick. So it’s unfortunate that he doesn’t bring much energy or style here beyond a bland, textureless digital aesthetic. Too much of the film runs on straight-facing expected story beats with no wit or anything beyond a generic treatment. The film is admirably bare bones in its approach to story, but character development is light at best the Richet doesn’t sustain enough consistent tension.

It’s to Butler’s credit he doesn’t often repeat the same performance like many other notable action stars. We’ve seen the Scotsman in larger-than-life roles like King Leonidas in Zack Snyder’s 300 and the seemingly indestructible secret service agent Mike Banning from the Fallen series. Like Butler’s recent disaster thriller, Greenland, about a family man looking to keep his family safe during the apocalypse, there’s an emphasis how Butler’s Captain Brodie Torrance is a deeply committed pilot, but far from a skilled fighter or weapons expert. There’s even a rather gripping scene, shot to resemble a long, unbroken take that finds Butler’s Brodie having to fight for his life with his bare hands and subsequently grappling with killing a human being. It’s not often we get a scene like this in most mindless action films, particular ones that come out in January, but its a sobering moment that stands out for its grit and realism.

You never get the sense Plane has much intent on offering anything in terms of freshness to the screen, but the lack of engaging action for much of the runtime prevents the film from reaching any other sense of thrill you may have. The lone exciting set piece in saved for the climax which picks up steam. The climactic action sequence calls to mind the likes of Con Air, Die Hard 2 and Fast & Furious 6 and finally delivers on the simplistic fun promised by the title. There’s a nifty use of a .50 cal sniper rifle that, while not as robust as the goopy, human-liquefying sequence in Stallone’s 2008 Rambo, still does a notable amount of thrilling damage.

Playing opposite Butler is the charismatic Mike Colter who fits the films traditional mold of action star against Butler’s straight man. These are the two roles with the most amount of depth, but glimpses are fleeting at best. The roster of stock characters shows potential for the script to play around and have fun, but the supporting cast of passengers add up to little more than background noise. Even recognizable talents such as the underutilized Daniella Pineda, Tony Goldwyn and Paul Ben-Victor are left with hanging.

Plane is too thin and generic to be remembered among Gerard Butler’s best action films. While fleeting moments of fun prevent Plane from feeling completely disposable, this is a lackluster and dull actioner.