Plane is a straightforward action romp in which producer Gerard Butler stars as a commercial airline pilot with the bad luck to get caught in a worse-than-expected storm and crashes down.

The relatively good news is that only fourteen passengers came aboard this particular flight. Unfortunately, there were two casualties in the crash, and that’s not even the bad news. The bad news is, one of the surviving passengers is a reputedly violent criminal (Louis Gaspar, played by Mike Coulter) found and captured in Singapore, put on a flight for extradition back to the States. Worse still, this plane had the bad luck of crashing on an island run by a deranged warlord (Junmar, played by Evan Dane Taylor) with an army of separatists who’ve somehow grown so heavily armed and violent that the Phillipine army and government won’t go anywhere near them.

In other words, what we’ve got here is a film in which a handsome white leading man mows down an army of heavily armed nameless faceless brown people with no motivation or identity beyond terrorism. In freaking 2023.

Yeah, there’s a reason why it took me so long to come around to reviewing this movie. But then again, the film was heavily marketed with Butler and Coulter as co-leads, which helps to muddy the racial optics a bit. Furthermore, it certainly helps that this is a Gerard Butler picture, and he’s never been one to portray himself as some invincible leading man. (Remember, even all the way back in 300, Leonidas freaking died at the end.) Even in the movie itself, Butler’s character (Let’s not pretend the character’s name even slightly matters.) proves incapable of saving the day on his own, and he needs extensive help from a multiracial platoon of mercenaries. A platoon sent in by Scarsdale (Tony Goldwyn), a white man serving as the resident fixer for the airline Butler works for.

I have a difficult time sorting through the racial optics of all this, is what I’m saying. And then I remember that I myself am a cishet white man nowhere near qualified to comment on the topic. More importantly, there’s no doubt whatsoever that I’m putting more thought into the racial aspect than the filmmakers ever did.

Plane is my least favorite kind of film to review because it’s just okay. It’s not bad, it’s not great, it’s only serviceable because it had no aspirations to be anything more. It neither has nor desires to obtain any greater artistic statement. It perfectly delivers the baseline of shoot ’em up action with no aspirations to deliver anything more or anything new. The film is a round and functional wheel made by people who didn’t even want to try reinventing it.

Gerard Butler is playing the exact same role he’s been playing for close to 20 years now. Mike Coulter is suitably badass, but the film only teases at his character’s unpredictable nature while the character himself never does anything that might take the plot in some new or unexpected direction. And aside from those two faces on the poster, none of the other actors or characters are the least bit noteworthy. The only minor exceptions are Tony Goldwyn and Paul Ben-Victor, admirably holding down the corporate boardroom scenes. But then Daniella Pineda is utterly wasted as the chief steward, and Haleigh Hekking only serves to pad the runtime as she sits around and looks concerned in the role of Butler’s daughter.

What we’ve got here is a movie that aimed for mediocrity and achieved its goal perfectly. A film masterfully designed to be comfortably enjoyed through a lean 100 minutes and then instantly forgotten as soon as the credits roll. Hell, the film isn’t even consistently an action movie, as most of the gunplay and slaughter doesn’t really happen until the third act. Up until that point, it’s really more of a survival suspense thriller, as we spend the first half-hour on the plane crash and then the next hour is about watching everyone try and get back home before the separatist army inevitably takes everyone hostage.

The filmmakers keep trying to trick the audience into thinking that something exciting is happening and there’s no telling what might happen next. But if you’ve seen any movie ever, you already know exactly how this entire movie plays out before you’ve even bought your ticket.

Sorry, folks, but Plane left me with nothing to write about. There’s little to praise and little to complain about. No reason to spend money on this, but no reason to avoid it either. What we’ve got here is a surgically precise picture of adequacy.

Having said all of that, we just came off a banner year in action (see also: Violent Night, Ambulance, Top Gun: Maverick, RRR, etc.), and we’ve got another John Wick entry coming up in a few months. With so many far superior and more innovative options in the immediate past and the foreseeable future, why waste time and money on this one? It certainly doesn’t help that the thin premise is instantly dated, and Butler has a long history of better work in this lane.

In the final analysis, it’s a no for me. Sorry, but the film is so clearly custom-tailored for cable television that I have a hard time recommending it — much less paying to see it — on any other format.


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