Thursday, July 13, 2006


I was just beginning to believe that I had overcome my Miami airport jinx when I realised that I was the only person left waiting next to the reclaim carousel on Sunday. My suitcase was to enjoy an extra three days sojourn in Florida. Still no burning engines and tearful stewardesses this time round...just a few disconcerting sparks from the undercarriage as we lifted off. And the best part was that storm fronts around the Gulf had delayed my flight out of Guatemala enough that I missed my AA connection and had to be shifted over to BA − free bar, friendly personnel, edible food and some actual entertainment.

Some genteel American retirees stood and moaned for some time after boarding about the cramped conditions in coach on the BA jumbo. "There should be a law against this...It's back to Delta next year." Yet I don't think you are any more of a battery chicken on this aircraft, it's just that the 747 is that much wider than the 777 that the main US carriers tend to fly. I have no recent experience of Delta, but nothing can be as bad as American. They didn't even serve us a meal on the 185 minute flight to Guatemala.

From an end-user perspective flying hasn't changed much since I was a boy, except that Concorde came and went. Yet Robert Schwentke's Flightplan anticipates the recognisably new era of commercial air-travel that now appears to be dawning. Plane or plot is the chicken and egg question here. Was a special futuristic aircraft needed to service the conceit of a mile-high missing person, or did the Aalton E-474 emerge new from its hangar in need of a convoluted thriller storyline to justify its cinematic existence?

This movie is Panic Room meets Aiport meets The Lady Vanishes. Gripping, good performances, some eye-catching art-house camerawork and mis-en-scene, and generally very silly. (V would have guessed who was behind the whole thing from the moment they sat in their seat and would have complained through the rest of the movie!)

In his Guardian review Peter Bradshaw wrote that "one day Hollywood will stop skirting around 9/11 and tackle it head-on." Well, now they have, and I reported that in United 93 the most chilling part of the experience was actually feeling that you were on the plane. Schwentke invested a lot in his set, but it never really convinces as a plane in flight. The build and the textures are right, but the mood isn't. The sudden, noisy little judders of turbulence roughly every 15 minutes simply served to draw my attention to this inauthenticity. (Also, how many westbound red-eye flights are there and would it still be dark when you arrived? Why would a Germany-USA flight have a Japanese language airline video?)

Not sure that Flightplan flies circles around 9-11, but it certainly plays the Ahmed card quite shamelessly.

Finding out what is actually going on is not the moment of clarity you would expect!

I haven't seen much of Greta Scacchi since she turned down the Sharon Stone role in Basic Instinct back in 1992. One of the scariest parts of this movie is how much both she and Jodie Foster have aged. I used to have a bit of a crush on Greta when she appeared in The Coca Cola Kid and Defence of the Realm.

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