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.