A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the film's premise is a missing child, a timely topic but also potentially disturbing for younger viewers. The film focuses on the mother's panic when her 6-year-old daughter disappears midflight on an airbus, which offers up plenty of high-techy, brightly-lit space to be searched. The mother displays tears, fear, and rage at the crew, who question her sanity. There is an apparent suicide (the film includes discussion of a fall off a rooftop, and some flashbacks/dreams of the victim's last night alive). The movie also features some violence, as the mother fights crew members and an air marshal, as well as threats of a hijacking and a bomb on the plane. Most important, parents should know that the tension is frequently very taut; be aware of what your child might tolerate and understand.
What's the story?
Newly widowed Kyle (Jodie Foster) is transporting the body of her husband back to the States aboard a giant airbus that Kyle helped to design. With her is their daughter, six-year-old Julia (Marlene Lawson). Both fall asleep early in the flight. Kyle wakes up a couple of hours into the flight to find Julia missing. Though she tries to approach crew members and Captain Rich (Sean Bean) with respect, she's increasingly unnerved by their suggestions that she's worrying needlessly, and then that the girl doesn't exist. As the crew and passengers are increasingly turning against Kyle, she fights to find Julia.
Is it any good?
As suddenly widowed mother and propulsion engineer Kyle Pratt, Foster provides a broad range of emotion. Practical-minded and self-contained in her grief, Kyle first appears in middream, walking with her dead husband through Berlin's snowy streets, wishing that she might stop him from ascending to their rooftop -- from which he fell or jumped. While it provides an apt showcase for the brilliant Jodie Foster and delivers effective tension in its early scenes, by the end, FLIGHTPLAN dissolves into clichés. But there are enough thrills to keep teens and adults interested.
But the movie never veers from Kyle's perspective, which means viewers believe her and suspect a plot. This is especially true when Air Marshal Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard) comes up with some completely inappropriate niggling: "Your husband's death is starting to make a lot more sense to me -- a couple more hours and I'm ready to jump." Right. With outrageous motivation like that, you're ready for the silly plot turns that turn Kyle into Action Mom.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the portrayal of Kyle's evolving distress: how is she sympathetic in her fear and anger? How does her briefly sketched relationship with her daughter Julia help to establish this sympathy, even when everyone else on the plane thinks she's lost her mind? And how does the film use racial profiling of "Arab" passengers (in Kyle and other passengers' accusations)? Is this reasonable or unreasonable under these circumstances?
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