I'm all for female equality, but with the releases of airplane thrillers "Red Eye" and "Flightplan" so close together, I'm starting to think that there's some kind of conspiracy to castrate both the male hero and the male villain and elevate the cerebral, anorexic woman to some kind of mythic status.
In "Flightplan," the men all seem completely powerless. Aeronautics engineer Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) is flying with her daughter, but when she wakes up, her daughter is missing. Having recently endured the death of her husband, Kyle panics and demands the crew search every inch of the plane. When the crew and its captain (Sean Bean) discover that Kyle's daughter isn't even on the manifest, they begin to think she's crazy and leave her in the custody of the air marshal (Peter Sarsgaard).
Before the big twist toward the end when we learn whether Kyle is imagining everything or her daughter really is missing, the men stand around like bulls waiting in a Rocky Mountain Oyster line. The air marshal spends most of his time running after Kyle as she scares everyone on board by dashing around demanding the crew search this place and that. The Captain gets out of his chair just long enough to twiddle his thumbs and fret over the decision to search the plane or not. Then, of course, there's the dead husband, who helpfully committed suicide. Then we get the obligatory argument about racism between some hillbilly and a couple of Arabs on the plane. Every guy is either psychologically or physically limp.
There's nothing wrong with a strong female hero nor is there anything wrong with reinforcing the idea that women aren't always going to cower in the face of danger, but I can't seem to shake the feeling that my cinematic testicles are in a vice of political correctness making it all but impossible for a strong man to even help, much less rescue, a woman in trouble. It suddenly seems something more than a coincidence that Cillian Murphy, who plays the bad guy in "Red Eye" is next starring as a transvestite in "Breakfast on Pluto." That he makes an incredibly believable woman makes it all the more disturbing.
Nobody ever believes Kyle because nobody can say for certain that they ever saw her daughter. Ultimately, the film tries to make a statement about our self-absorbed culture and our collective inability to connect with those around us. Kyle's daughter goes missing because nobody cares.
Self-absorption can sometimes be a good thing: Had I been more self-absorbed during this film, I might not have suffered so much during the slow descent of "Flightplan."
DVD Notes: Bonus features include "The In-Flight Movie: The Making of Flightplan" featurette, "Cabin Pressure: Designing the Aalto E-474" featurette, and filmmaker audio commentary.
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