January 28, 2023


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‘Planes’ Review: An action movie as strong as its star, Gerard Butler

4 min read

Since the 80s, action films have been overwhelmingly original in concept, execution and title. So when you hear that Gerard Butler’s new film is called “Planes,” you’d be forgiven for thinking you could run the entire movie through your head in the blink of an eye. Gerard Butler in an Airplane (Czech). He is probably a pilot (Czech). Perhaps a criminal is on board (check). The film would be a low-flying, B-grade “Air Force One,” with Butler’s windpipe-smashing grizzled lug saving the day the same way Harrison Ford’s heroic resourceful CEO did.

Not really.

Butler, in his over-the-shoulder golden chip-of-solder mode, actually plays Captain Brody Torrance, a commercial airline pilot who boards a passenger plane in an early scene that he’s piloting from Singapore to Tokyo (where he is) on New Year’s Eve. There is indeed a criminal on the plane: a handcuffed convicted murderer, Louis Gasparre (Mike Colter), who is being extradited and added to the passenger list at the last minute. We expect fireworks, and they come — but only in the form of bad weather. The executive in charge of Trailblazer Airlines decided to send the plane into a hellish storm, because it would save fuel by not having to take it a long way.

Brody is supposed to conduct flights at the top of the storm, but apparently this storm has no top. It knocked the plane around like a tin can, and then a lightning bolt knocked out the jet’s electrical system. These scenes are suitably harrowing, especially if you have any anxiety about flying. As the plane begins to lose altitude, it becomes clear that Brody has no choice but to land it, even though there is nothing but sea below him.

But you don’t know it, he stains the land. An island of jungle terrain with a road snaking right through the middle. How convenient! Donning his Sully Sullenberger cap, Brody manages to make an emergency landing, using the road as a makeshift runway and trapping the short-out plane and its 14 passengers on Jolo, a remote island in the Philippines. A ragtag militia of separatist rebels.

We thought we were seeing “planes”. But now we see “The Island,” or “Hostage in the Tropics,” or “Gerard Butler Outwits and Kicks the Asses of Scrooge Nihilist Guerrillas.” “Plane” is a plane thriller that turns into a kidnap-escape thriller that turns into a “Defiant Ones” buddy thriller that turns into a mission-control thriller that turns into a plane thriller. But it works to his advantage all at once. Jean-François Richet, French crime-drama director (“Mesrine”) low-down expat action stylist (“Blood Father”), leapfrogs the genre so that neither of them outstays its welcome. The movie has a likable utilitarian quality, rooted in accepted behavior, that seems almost straight out of a pre-Sly-and-Arnold world. If anything, it feels less stranded on a remote island than “Triangle of Misery.”

Butler is now 53, and his austere Scottish gallantry has aged like fine wine – or, at least, pretty good ale. He has a warm and fuzzy side, which comes out in Brody’s phone chat with his collegiate daughter Daniella (Haley Hecking), whom he is supposed to meet after the flight. He contacts her again in one of the film’s best scenes, set in an abandoned communications hut in the middle of the woods, where Brody, in just a few minutes, manages to get the phone line back on, so he can set one up. Call Trailblazer Airlines. A war room of corporate troubleshooters, led by an ex-Special Forces officer played by Tony Goldwyn (who looks like Ryan Seacrest’s sinewy sibling), tries to pinpoint the location of the missing plane. But Brody, in a disturbingly funny scene, tangles with a boring 21st-century company operator who won’t cooperate. (He thinks she’s a prank caller.) So he’s forced to call Daniela.

Even when the Trailblazer men realize where the plane is, they can’t just jump to the rescue. The Philippine government would not cooperate; Only tenants will enter there. Which means Brody basically has to fight the rebels by himself, although he deputizes a partner: Louie, the handcuffed killer, played by the charismatic Mike Colter, who makes this bruiser a wrongdoer who nonetheless keeps you guessing. The rest of the passengers bicker and bicker — or, in the case of arrogant businessman Sinclair (Joey Slotnick), until the mutineers commandeer, led by Dale (Yosson Ann), a diminutive commander who’s a penny-pinching Che Guevara, reducing him to flimsy submission. day They need ransom money to finance the war, a plan that Brody undercuts with fists, machine guns, surgical espionage time and extreme piloting skills. “Plane” is fodder, but the film shamelessly oozes its own idiosyncrasies, carried — and occasionally over — by Gerard Butler’s squinty dynamo determination.

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