Thursday, October 06, 2005

The blandness of FlightPlan

On Sunday I trudged up to the Harkins Centerpoint and saw FlightPlan. Why? No reason, particularly—if I said that kind of stuff, I’d say that we were meant to be, FlightPlan and I—just that it seemed to be going on at that particular time. How was it? Hmmm, that’s a question—how to answer that?--well, to tell you the truth, it was extremely dull. Now that’s the first time I’ve ever called a movie dull (simply dull as opposed to say, horrendous) but it’s very hard to find out exactly what’s wrong with FlightPlan. Certainly it’s been made with a lot of attention and detail; unlike the absolutely horrendous (there!) The Forgotten. Also, like The Forgotten, it has an extremely talented actress at its helm, the angular Jodie Foster (not to mention a very similar plot: the disappearance of a son/daughter). What’s with Foster and all the mother roles she’s so into these days? And what’s with Hollywood and all these mother roles in general? Are we so pre-occupied with the loss of children? And the children, why are they either little ethereal angels or irritating screaming shrews (little Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds)? Does the whole post-industrial world bring out some kind of subliminal anxiety in us, which somehow leads film-makers to imagine these scenarios?

Frankly, I have no idea. Some reviews of the movie I read were upset that the movie completely changed tracks mid-way—instead of being a meditation on grief, it turned into a thriller. You know, I would have agreed with that criticism, except that the movie is equally boring in both tracks – just supremely so as an exercise in grief and moderately so as a thriller. It’s just that as a thriller, there’s still some movement of the camera, something to look forward to—the grieving subplot is completely flat. Flat in the sense that there is no remotely palpable sense of loss, no sense of grief, nothing. The movie is like the bland shiny airplane interior it takes place in—bland and dull.

The problem with these kinds of movies is that I can see exactly how they are pitched. It’s like The Forgotten--“Hey, what’d happen if a child just disappeared? Into the blue?”—and bam, a screenplay is produced. FlightPlan has a better screenplay than Forgotten (it’s co-written by Billy Ray, the writer-director of Shattered Glass). Well, better in the sense that it is fleshed out with no gaping holes. But in a way, the writers’ decision to ground the plot around today’s resonating themes (the mother-child bond saving the passengers of an airplane from a hijack attempt) is their worst; it makes the grief sections of the film utterly pallid and the action sequences incredible—and by that I mean not remotely credible.

What’s left then? The actors? Peter Sarsgaard turns up, looking more like a reptile than ever. But he doesn’t really have much to do and his typical under-acting doesn’t help. Jodie Foster? She’s good—as always—but good doesn’t mean anything in a movie like this. It’s a good dull performance in dull movie.

1 comment:

Preetha said...

I totally agree with your comment about little girls in movies - especially "irritating screaming shrews little Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds ". I wanted to strangle her in that movie !

The only kid I've liked in recent times is the girl who played the youngest , Lucy" in the Narnia movie - she had a little twinkle in her eyes and she totally acted and looked her age.In fact I think she was the only believable character in that film.