Out patrolling a California highway officer Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage) picks up a lost doll that will change his life forever. After returning the doll to the little girl who dropped it from her mom’s station wagon their car goes up in flames rendering Edward hurt and unable to help them. After months of Edward trying to mentally escape the tragic scene with the aid of pills he receives a little reprieve from his ex-fiancé Willow (Kate Beahan) who calls for his help regarding her lost daughter. He promptly travels to the mysterious Summersisle an island in Washington State where Willow lives. There life revolves around the matriarch Sister Summersisle (Ellen Burstyn) and a ritual known as “the Day of Death and Rebirth.” Edward thinks therein lay the clues to the missing little girl but each step forward in his investigation brings him that much closer to meeting the Wicker Man. Cage is a star but some of his bad choices and misfortunes have kept him from being a megastar. File Wicker Man under “bad choices and misfortunes”--Cage can’t win here. The man’s incapable of a bad performance but he’s somewhat miscast as a haunted California policeman--that description immediately doesn’t fit the actor and calls to mind someone else--and the film’s overall incoherence buries him in the end more so than the rest of the cast. As for those supporters Burstyn predictably fares best though she’s not immune to the bevy of ridiculous images the film serves up. As Cage’s beleaguered ex-fiancé Beahan (Flightplan) too isn’t bad but she doesn’t always look the part of a pagan-like village woman even though her character had previously ventured into the real world. And turns--or more like cameos--from Frances Conroy (HBO’s Six Feet Under) and Leelee Sobieski (Joy Ride) misfire horrendously. Wicker Man is a remake of the 1973 (borderline) cult classic of the same name automatically giving off stenches of “unnecessary” and “pedestrian ” but director Neil LaBute (Nurse Betty In the Company of Men) mostly fails to live up to even those expectations. LaBute highly talented and often keen on much more offbeat projects apparently tried for a mixture of Hitchcock mystery and Witness-like intrigue but his modern update doesn’t add up. The suspense just isn’t there and in place of what should’ve been darker more fitting explorations of the village--such as forbidden-fruit sexual undertones and opportunities for genuine horror moments some of which are possible during the daytime by the way--are by-the-book PG-13 elements. Towards the end LaBute’s script (which he co-wrote)--and movie--unravels as Cage goes all Steven Seagal on us even karate-kicking women! Also the film looks gorgeous but Summersisle often appears more like a pristine getaway than a haunted village.
Still grieving for her dead husband she's taking back to the United States to bury Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) faces every mother's worst nightmare when her 6-year-old daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston) vanishes without a trace on a state-of-the-art 474 aircraft en route from Berlin to New York. Already emotionally devastated Kyle desperately struggles to prove her sanity to the disbelieving flight crew and passengers while facing the very real possibility that she may be losing her mind. You see all evidence indicates that her daughter was never onboard. Julia's name isn't on the manifest and she does not have a boarding pass. In fact there are no traces that the girl exists save for a stuffed bear Kyle carries around. While Capt. Rich (Sean Bean) or U.S. Air Marshal Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard) want to doubt the bereaved widow it becomes increasingly clear that Kyle is unstable and her adamancy is causing a slight panic among the plane's crew and passengers. Finding herself desperately alone Kyle can only rely on her own wits to solve the mystery and save her daughter. If she has one that is.
Jodie Foster can't help but lend credible intelligence to her films but unfortunately she is sometimes just too good for the movie she's in. This is sort of the case with Flightplan. Things start off very somber and moving as Foster heartbreakingly shows us a woman barely keeping it together. The pain of losing her husband is etched over her face but when Kyle looks at her adorable daughter--played convincingly by the young Lawston--you can see a glimmer of hope she'll get through it. Of course that is until Julia disappears and Kyle goes a little haywire. For any mother in the audience this surely will strike a chord. But as the plot twists and turns Foster is then required to turn into something of a supermom with super intellect and super brawn. Much like she was in her last film Panic Room Foster's the mother bear trying to save her cub from threatening forces. The Oscar-winning actress can pull it off natch but the story doesn't completely hold up to the acting. Sarsgaard (Kinsey) too has the ability to make anything he's in that much better and sparring with Foster as the seemingly patient U.S. Air Marshal Carson is just another notch in the actor's ever-widening belt of strong supporting performances. The rest of the cast follow suit as well most notably Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings) as the beleaguered but kind captain just trying to help a woman he believes is simply crazy with grief. It's a change of pace for him since he usually plays the villain. Also good are Erika Christensen (Traffic) as a caring flight attendant and newcomer Kate Beahan as her co-worker who could care less. It's a thankless job but somebody's got to do it.
For a movie contained entirely in the claustrophobic environment of a jumbo jet you better make damn sure the aircraft is esthetically pleasing. Flightplan plane's a real stunner. Of course the Aalto Air's E-474 jumbo jet--with its plush first-class accommodations (including a lounge) spacious coach cabin spiral staircases and most especially an immaculately clean and shiny interior--doesn't really exist but you hope maybe the aerodynamic engineers out there will take notice and start building them. German indie director Robert Schwentke (Tatoo) is very adept at creating the palpable tension within the main cabin as Kyle runs around frantically searching and stirring up paranoia among the other passengers. Flightplan also plays upon the fearfulness and distrust in air travel these days as did the recent taut thriller Red-Eye. But what we are really waiting for is the twist. Is Kyle really going off the deep end á la The Forgotten? Or is there some kind of conspiracy going on? Alas when the mystery is solved it's sort of a letdown only because the final whopper is just a wee bit contrived. Regardless you'll still enjoy the ride up to the final moments.