‘Plane’: Gerard Butler Takes a Detour in Brisk Thriller

Gerard Butler goes on the ride of his life in “Plane,” an action-thriller starring Butler as Captain Brodie Torrance, the pilot of a commercial airliner that takes a detour during a fateful New Year’s Eve flight. Despite the film’s title, the majority of the action takes place outside of an aircraft, as Brodie finds himself fighting to save himself, his crew and passengers from a small army of evil-doers on a remote island. 

Like Butler himself, Brodie is Scottish, and one gets the impression early on that he has an edge to him. This is confirmed when a video is shown of him putting an unruly passenger in a chokehold, which explains why he is stuck flying from Singapore to Tokyo on NYE. As he is flying through time zones, he’s hopeful that he can still make it to Hawaii in time to ring in the New Year with his college student daughter, Daniela (Haleigh Hekking). This being a light flight, Brodie and his crew, which includes co-pilot Samuel (Yoson An), a young family man from Hong Kong, and head flight attendant, Bonnie (Daniella Pineda), think it will be an easy trip. The only bumps in the beginning are the last-minute addition of alleged murderer, Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter), who is being extradited to Toronto after 15 years on the run, and the forecast of a storm along their route.

Predictably, the storm causes a malfunction. Brodie channels his inner Sully and is able to land the plane on a small island in the Philippines. Unfortunately, the island they end up on turns out to be ruled by a dangerous militia. Fortunately, Brodie proves to be calm under pressure and resourceful, and in a bold move, he chooses Louis, who has military training, to accompany him to get help while Samuel and Bonnie hold down the fort with the passengers.

A timely subplot takes place at the New York headquarters of the airline, Trailblazer, where the the owner, Hampton (Paul Ben Victor), and his team try to figure out what the heck happened to Brodie’s plane. Seeing a bunch of suits discussing damage control can be boring, but director Jean-François Richet and screenwriters Charles Cumming and J.P. Davis make it interesting by bringing in a Special Forces officer, Scarsdale (Tony Goldwyn), who hires mercenaries to retrieve the survivors. But make no mistake, Trailblazer, like a lot of corporations, values profits over human life, which is why they had Brodie fly through the path of a storm in the first place. But Hampton does have the business acumen to know that a bunch of dead passengers would be the worst possible PR.

But the real action happens in the Philippines, where Brodie and Louis find themselves fighting off the militants. The pair work surprisingly well together, come to respect each other, and at times it almost feels like one is watching a buddy film at times. Cumming and David do a superb job of building tension and putting Brodie Louis, as well as the crew and passengers, in increasingly dangerous predicaments.

Overall, “Plane” is a tight, enjoyable thriller, and Butler sticks the landing. If it is lacking anything, it is the development of some of the minor characters. We really don’t get to know any of the passengers, except for an annoying, entitled American man. The militants are especially one-note. At one point, their leader says something about someone like Brodie being worth more than someone like him in the eyes of the world, but this is not really expounded upon. Maybe it is too much to expect a film titled “Plane” to adequately explore the political landscape of the Philippines. Excessive dialogue and backstory would have also slowed down the pacing of what turns out to be a brisk watch.

Plane” releases Jan. 13 in theaters nationwide.