Films like Plane don’t get made these days. Gerard Butler‘s latest foray into high-octane action feels ripped straight out of the nineties and noughties, riffing on Speed and Snakes on a Plane, quite fittingly. It’s a very old-school setup, carried mostly by its engaging fight sequences and the simplicity of its concept.

In his usual action hero role, Butler plays Brodie Torrance, a former RAF pilot turned commercial captain. All is looking well on New Year’s Eve: a fairly simple flight with a next-to-empty group of passengers, followed by a reunion with his daughter. This all goes awry when the plane crashes on an island swamped by militant separatists, intent on exploiting these civilians for cash. Cue a race to escape the island unscathed, before these nefarious forces close in.

It’s a simple concept, but nobody’s really going into Plane for its plot. Fortunately, director Jean-François Richet and screenwriters Charles Cumming and J.P. Davis know that. Above all, Plane knows exactly what sort of film it is, and doesn’t waste too much energy on world-building, character development, or nuanced plotting. The only thing that took my by surprise in this script was the veiled critiques of capitalism, as the Trailblazer Airlines head honchos come up with numerous press releases to cover their backs once the eponymous aircraft goes missing. It never delves into the point of satire or explicit capitalist commentary, but it’s an interesting caveat nonetheless.

This is the main standout in a film that’s otherwise exactly what you expect it to be. Gerard Butler’s character magically has elite-level combat skills, and works brilliantly alongside convict Louis Gaspare (Luke Cage‘s Mike Colter) to infiltrate the insurgents’ base and plot a way home. The action is gruelling and brutal when it does arrive, shot and edited so snappily to keep the rollicking pace up.

Mike Colter's character, Louis Gaspare, in Plane.

Unfortunately, the best parts of the film are when we’re still on the plane in question. The first 30 minutes are genuinely thrilling, juxtaposing the mundanity of Torrance’s pre-flight checks with his mid-air quest to keep them alive. There are hints of Final Destination in here with the presentation of such a freak disaster, even if the cockpit green screen is occasionally a bit choppy.

But on the island, things start to go a bit awry – stellar action notwithstanding. The militia of mostly nameless insurgents is never fleshed out in any sense, instead portraying them as monolithic, bloodthirsty killers whom our (predominantly white) heroes have to stop. While this strand of B-movie popcorn action flick is rare to provide any sort of nuance, this comes across as very one-dimensional.

It all boils down to a film that’s perfectly adequate while you watch it, with action and set pieces that’ll keep you entertained over the 100-minute runtime. However, it’s the sort of thing that won’t linger long in the memory, with a concept that’s pretty thin and more suited to a Far Cry game than a film. That said, if you like cheesy action and want a switch-your-brain-off thrill ride, Plane can take you to your destination.


Plane is on digital, 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD now.

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