Planes are mostly safe but occasionally bad things can happen to ordinary people. I once landed back in London from a holiday in Sardinia only to hear the man in front say to his wife, as we exited Club Class filled with noisy families who had upgraded to escape other noisy families, “that was worse than when we were hijacked”.
Plane has no hijacking — or indeed children — though it does have characters who would never usually meet pushed together in the most difficult of circumstances.
For a rather by-numbers thriller Plane does swerve some of the more obvious tropes, almost to its detriment. Sadly, for those who love dialogue clichés absolutely no one in this movie says “we’re not so different, you and I!” And yet the lead characters here bear some striking similarities, or give us glimpses of what might have been had life taken a different turn, or personalities been a little more or little less reckless.
I said in my review that Louis was in some ways Junmar’s real opponent, and he is, but there are four men all on a trajectory to “meet” in this movie: Captain Brodie Torrance, extradited accused killer Louis Gaspare, Militia leader Datu Junmar and crisis management expert Tony Scarsdale. All four also at different times reflect a distorted version of other characters, a hint of who each might have been had circumstances been different.
The obvious similarities are between Brodie and Louis; a film like this requires them to have something in common even as they operate differently. Brodie flew in the RAF, held back by regional snobbery from the glamorous jobs but happy to stick with the big transport planes as it was the best route into the commercial airlines. His mistake — fighting back against an angry passenger who attacked him — has seen him demoted to less impressive routes and a cheap airline. Louis made a terrible mistake with greater consequences at only 18, one that sent him running to the French Foreign Legion, a branch of the French Army that allows people to join under assumed names and make a new start. Both are lost men, ending up on a lost aeroplane.
Brodie and Louis are also lone wolves; Brodie hasn’t met most of his crew previously, they’re just rostered together. Junmar and Scarsdale meanwhile are far from lost, and paying other people to fight for them (Scarsdale literally staying out of harm’s way). Scarsdale is very comfortable around his “assets”, or mercenaries. Junmar has his militia and also rules over the locals, paying them to be his eyes and ears. The two men use similar tactics: fighters outside of government control. Only the perspective changes.
Brodie is initially the softest of the four. We don’t know how much action he saw in the RAF, but while he can kill a man with his bare hands (we watch him do it) he’s very much a retaliation sort of guy. To an extent so is Scarsdale, as that’s his job as a crisis management expert. The crisis is already there when he pitches up and he has to operate in those grey areas to prevent the situation becoming even worse for his clients. Louis is used to not having that luxury. He’s also not phased by the horrors he sees and keeps moving forward. During the film Brodie toughens up; it’s not so much developing a harder shell as shedding the softness he’s developed since leaving the military, that would hold him back in the environment he finds himself in.
Co-pilot Samuel Dele is not an actioner though he does essentially fix the plane, so bar some of the world’s fastest brake fixing from Captain Torrance when they all rush back to the plane to escape the rebels he really saves the day. He also steps up in his captain’s absence against the rebels, and is most knowledgeable about where they might have landed and the dangers they face.
Like the other crew chief flight attendant Bonnie Lane stays in her role throughout the disaster. Her pilots confide in her and she has to keep the passengers happy while they grouch.
The passengers in Plane are mostly low-key, hustled from plane to bus to cell and back again, occasionally screaming. They do moan a lot though, from the state of the plane even before everything goes tits up to the very end when they seem to prefer staying put and getting murdered while waiting for rescue rather than getting back on the plane with their captain and limping off to potential safety. Or maybe that’s just Matt and Maxwell, the two bald white men I mentioned in my review who I finally managed to tell apart, taking up all the air in the room with their moaning and snipping.
Not everyone is like this. Other passengers are just (possibly for movie budgeting reasons) saying nothing and keeping their heads down, later showing their approval of their captain with a heartfelt nod — and to be fair they’re all having a stressful day.