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MOVIES: Plane - Review

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There comes a time when all you need is a dependable Gerard Butler action flick and Plane is a movie that delivers on that account. It's a habit he's made a career out of - and the true indication of how well cinema is doing is how many Butler movies there are in cinemas this year. We've already had one - and Plane is exactly what you'd expect.

It opens with a plane going down on a small island run by terrorists and militia on New Years Eve - a small cargo of passengers are on board the flight including a former French Foreign Legion soldier currently in the process of being extradited for a murder charge. It isn't long before the prisoners are captured - and through fate or by fortune, Captain Brodie Torrance is the only man who wasn't taken in by the captives. He must work with Mike Colter's Louis Gaspare to free the hostages - but time is running out.

It's a solid, simple plot that the movie never complicates - it's clear from the first few frames that Jean-Fran├žois Richet is not interested in telling his own version of Die Hard; Torrance picks up a left-behind radio but is told it's useless to him because he doesn't speak the same language that his enemies do, and rather than try to do everything himself, he relies on the help of the more experienced Gaspare; or the airlines' own private armed security that they send in to hostage situations like this when there is a need for them. Butler plays a vulnerable but gritty action star with the charisma of a man who has been in roles like these all his life - showing Sully Sullenberger how it's really done, of course!

This gives the foundations for an old '80s movies throwback that has all the weaknesses that an old '80s movie does - caricature, racist entirely one-dimensional portrayals of villains - but it also means that there are at least two action scenes in this movie that you'll see coming a mile off yet you'll still be in disbelief when it happens - the plane plays more a role in these encounters than you'd expect after the first act; and it's refreshing to see an action film that wastes no time in getting where it's going.

It feels like the film is at its strongest when the action is happening on the plane itself and at its weakest everywhere else; depending on your crowd you'll almost certainly spot people reacting to the nervousness of the plane crash - its frantic, disorientating chaos inducing opener that the film wastes no time in setting up - and then on top of that it follows itself up with a similiar stressful finale. It's kind of a tease, almost - Plane was two thirds a good film - it just takes its foot off the gas in its middle act with a surprisingly muted hostage situation.

Mike Colter is the most compelling presence in the room and easily the strongest figure there - a rather forgettable role for Butler, by all accounts - but nothing more than what you're used to. In other words, to sum the whole thing up - you know everything about Plane from the start: it's a classic January movie, best watched on a plane itself. What more do you need?

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