The airplane is the latest setting for intense movie plots, especially in the post 9/11 world. Red Eye and now Flightplan showcase the tension that can arise within a confined space, even amongst dozens of people. Flightplan is the more ambitious of the two, attempting both a character study and thrills. This is probably why Jodie Foster (A Very Long Engagement, Panic Room) chose the film. Foster is usually pretty picky about her roles, which is why this one seems a bit strange. Flightplan starts promisingly, but as it ups the thrills, the plot becomes murky and a bit hokey. Plotwise, Flightplan is a bit too similar to Panic Room, a much better film.

Foster is Kyle Pratt, an aeronautical engineer flying back to New York with her daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston). Her husband died, and she is taking his body back to America for burial. Julia is not handling things well, and Pratt is hypersensitive about anything that may further traumatize Julia. The plane she is taking back to America is also one she designed, so she is intimately familiar with nearly every aspect of it. After a short nap, she awakens to find Julia missing. Pratt is already in a state of distress, her anxiety increases when she cannot locate her daughter anywhere on board.

It is no secret that the captain (Sean Bean, The Island, National Treasure) informs her that Julia died along with her husband. It's in every single trailer for the film. So now, the question that Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray's (Suspect Zero, Shattered Glass) screenplay asks the audience is whether or not Pratt is crazy. She insists that she is not, yet there is no record of Julia whatsoever. Nobody remembers seeing her, and she is not on the passenger manifest. As Pratt begins her search, the viewer is squarely in her camp. As it progresses, she becomes very agitated, and director Robert Schwentke (The Family Jewels, Tattoo) moves the story forward, her sanity comes into question. Air marshal Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard, The Skeleton Key, Kinsey) takes her into his custody. Sarsgaard is another actor who chooses roles carefully. There has to be something about the Carson character to entice him into this film, right?

However, it's not a great leap of logic to assume that something did happen to her Julia, and that Pratt is the only person who can figure it out. Just like it is not a huge logical leap to assume that the two Arab guys are NOT terrorists, as that would be a public relations nightmare. Instead, it is a lazy red herring to use. The plot concocts an explanation that is plausible, but loses credibility as things become more incredulous. Lucky that Pratt designed the plane she's on; she knows every compartment and passageway imaginable. Foster throws herself into the role, bringing a sense real seriousness to Flightplan, otherwise slowly eroded away by the plot. She's a good actress in a so-so movie.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 33 minutes, Rated PG-13 for violence and some intense plot material.

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