As anyone who's ever spent an hour in limbo circling Heathrow will confirm, there's little glamour and excitement in air travel nowadays. In Hollywood, however, in-flight entertainment is clearly back in vogue. First Wes Craven touched down with Red Eye, a daft but devilish tale of terror in the skies; now Jodie Foster's back from her extended break with a Hitchcockian thriller that skilfully plays on post-9/11 anxieties.
Not that it starts off that way. As a grief-stricken Foster walks Berlin's streets beside the ghostly presence of her recently deceased hubby, it seems as if German helmer Robert Schwentke is steering us into Sixth Sense territory. The spooky mood is sustained once Jodie and her daughter are airborne, so much so that, when Foster awakes to find her daughter missing, we're tempted to side with the sceptical trolly-dollies who doubt her very existence.
Flightplan's big problem is that its rug-pulling reversal comes too early, leaving your head spinning from its preposterous implausibility. But it's fair to say that it does undo a lot of Schwentke's good work, turning what had been shaping up as an eerily unsettling study of one woman's fight for sanity into a formulaic potboiler whose resemblance to Panic Room does its star few favours.
Still, as circumstances force her to be ever more courageous, Foster's performance becomes more and more compelling - so much so that even Peter Sarsgaard, playing the Federal air marshal who reluctantly takes her side, can't help but get lost in her slipstream. The material may be beneath her, but that doesn't stop Jodie giving it her all, and, frankly, it's great to have her back.
Compelling take-off with major turbulence near the end, but a safe landing thanks to Foster's undimmed star power.
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