Another Gerard Butler Flick, Another Day Saved
DIRECTOR: JEAN-FRANÇOIS RICHET/2023
Last week I shared my best films of 2022, and this week it’s my best film of 2023!
This, of course, is by default since Gerard Butler’s latest action-adventure is the only 2023 film I’ve watched. In Plane, Butler stars as Captain Brodie Torrance, who’s finishing his last flight for Trailblazer Airlines before joining his daughter in Hawaii for vacation. At the last minute, a mysterious convict (Mike Colter) is added to his manifest for extradition, and against his protestations, Trailblazer directs him to fly through a major storm—what could go wrong? It turns out a crash landing on an island the Filipino government has disowned is just the beginning. With no way to communicate with Trailblazer on an island overrun by terrorist militias, only a hero played by Gerard Butler could save these passengers.
To its credit, Plane does live up to its name. Yes, the title has made me laugh almost as much as the entirety of the comedy Airplane! did, but have I ever seen a camera ogle the body of an aircraft before? And wasn’t the turbulence that brought it down genuinely nerve-wracking? The majority of Plane is implausible but possible with Butler as the everyman hero who happens to be an incredible pilot, brilliant engineer, and skilled in combat. Part of Butler’s appeal is he can sell his capability in crisis situations—and that no one seems more surprised by his abilities than he is. Like in Geostorm, Greenland, and the Fallen trilogy, Butler is an uncomplicated hero a lá the Westerns of yore, this time subbing the white cowboy hat for a white captain’s shirt. Though he does have more support than Gary Cooper in High Noon thanks to a competent flight crew (Yoson An, Danielle Pineda) and Colter’s enemy-of-my-enemy muscle, Butler is the one who gets the hand-to-hand showdown with one of the terrorists in an impressive single take.
But this is not Con Air. If there’s any reasonable criticism of this silly film, it’s that it’s not silly enough. Sure, Tony Goldwyn plays a character named Scarsdale and the final resolution is over-the-top impossible, but most of this story attempts to live in the real world. The passengers are as annoying as we’d all be in this situation, not larger-than-life personalities. Trailblazer is more interested in PR than people, but there’s no twist with an evil corporate hack sabotaging the rescue efforts. You don’t need to go as bombastic as last year’s Ambulance, but you do need do something silly to stick in audiences’ minds. Plane never finds that unique spin, which means even though it’s enjoyable, it’s one of Butler’s more forgettable action vehicles.