We wonder if Top Gun: Maverick had something to do with it. Very suddenly, it feels like the ‘80s and early ‘90s are here again, as pretension-free, no-nonsense action movies are dropping onto the Xbox Store more and more often. We’re all for it: there’s something joyful about a film that doesn’t worry too much about believability, has the heroes overcoming improbable stakes, and doesn’t wink into the camera constantly.
Plane is absolutely one of this growing trend of movies (last year’s Ambulance is another good example). It’s overflowing with everything we just mentioned, but also pulls tricks that are straight out of Die Hard, Under Siege and Con Air. There’s the evil corporation looking to protect itself; the good guy on the radio who has the main guy’s back; and the race against time against pretty much faceless terrorists. We’d slot Plane into 1989, and it would fit less like a glove, more like a white vest.
Plane is effectively cut in half. The first half takes place on Trailblazer Airlines Flight 119 as it travels from Singapore to Honolulu via Tokyo. There’s only fourteen people on the plane, mainly because the bells of New Year’s will ring as they are mid-flight. The foreshadowing is strong with Plane, as there are mentions of a potential storm, but Corporate Malfeasance Man forces the crew to fly anyway.
On the plane is Gerard Butler as Brodie Torrance, the plane’s pilot. Gerard’s allowed to use his native Scottish accent this time out. He’s joined by rookie co-pilot Samuel Dele (Yoson An), who keeps looking at photos of his family like he’s failed to read the rules of death in 80’s movies. The rest of the crew and passengers are a motley mix of angry man, helpful man and selfie-ing girls.
Most importantly, the passenger manifest also includes Louis Gaspare, played by Luke Cage himself, Mike Colter, who is presumably appearing in movies while he awaits to see if Marvel will give him a ring. Louis Gaspare is a bad man, a murderer on the run since he was 19, eventually caught while enlisting in the Foreign Legion. He is being shuttled to Honolulu in the care of an air marshall.
There are no real surprises about what happens next. The storm hits and the plane loses power. An aeroplane crash is a cinematic staple, a dramatic moment that works in pretty much any movie, but Plane’s crash is standout. It’s a slow-burn, as obstacles are overcome only for them to reveal further obstacles behind. It reminds a little of Apollo 13, as the crew contrive away to somehow not die, using any and all materials to hand.
This first half is worth the admission alone, and while it doesn’t do anything particularly new – and there are a couple of frustrating decisions made by the crew that will make you tut – it’s supremely entertaining.
The second half, without revealing too much, is the more conventional action caper, as the crew and passengers go from the frying pan to the fire. They’re suddenly confronted by the very real prospect of being kidnapped, tortured and killed, and it needs someone to step up and put on their action hero vest. As you would probably expect, that’s Gerard Butler and Mike Colter, in a buddy-up that has the obvious will-they-won’t-they tension. Except it’s will they kill each other or not, or will Mike run away?
It’s this half that feels like a blender with all of your favourite action movies inserted one at a time. The cynical will see through Plane at this point and dismiss it as derivative junk, but we’d like to make the opposite case. It’s an earnest, taut thriller that chimes the right action movie notes, and ended up leaving us a little breathless. It barely stops for a miniature vodka from the plane’s bar.
The enemies, led by Datu Junmar (Evan Dane Taylor) are dangerously one-note. They’re a group whose main MO is to make money, and their principles – which we presume they are meant to have, being terrorists – are never covered. It’s a bit jingoistic and makes us a little uncomfortable, but if you can hand-wave their portrayal, they are a convincing threat throughout. Evan Dane Taylor in particular froths and seethes at the improbable resistance that Gerard Butler and his team are offering.
By the end, we felt like we’d been served a hearty action platter in Plane. We were full-up on the cliches, the extremely well directed action sequences (often delivered in single-takes like Bourne Identity never happened), and the sincere acting from Bulter and Colter. It promised a rollercoaster and delivered.
There’s talk of a sequel: ‘Ship’. Put us down for a ticket now, first class. We will see how far they go with the concept. Planes, Trains and Automobiles anyone?
You can watch Plane from the Film & TV section of the Xbox Store
Over the next few weeks, we are going to be trying something new: we’re going to be reviewing some of the new releases in the Xbox Film and TV Store. Let us know what you make of these features in the comments below.