After having thought a little over the Jodi Foster film Flightplan, which I saw last night with Lime, I am of two minds. Spoilers follow.
The first mind keeps reminding me that I was, you know, entertained enough by it. I really began to wonder whether Foster’s character hadn’t actually hallucinated bringing her daughter onto the plane, whether she might just be mad. Perhaps that’s what I get for watching the film so soon after finishing the book Pale Fire, with its mad narrators. I even began to wonder if Foster’s character wasn’t a hallucination in the mind of the little girl, both of whose parents had died, and who was being coddled by a horrified flight staff — though after a few minutes, it became obvious that this, too, was impossible. I did keep wondering what was going on, though I was quite certain the Arabs on the airplane had nothing to do with the disappearing daughter.
The second opinion is that it’s a bit of an improbable plot. I mean, really, an air marshal going in with a stewardess on a hijacking plan? A murder? Why’d they choose a woman who knew the plane so well? Why would they bother to kill her husband, except to make her look crazy? (Why would a grieving widow hijack a plane?) Why would nobody remember the little girl?
I can sort-of go with the misanthropic conception of humanity in the film: the notion spat out by the evil flight marshal that “people just don’t care”. Yes, this was obvious from the rather believable response of the father to his children that, no, they couldn’t help search for the missing child. While the businessman who made the comment, “It’s not like she lost her PalmPilot,” is a bit behind the times — but then, in my opinion, most of North America is behind the times when it comes to funky electronic gadgets so it is believable to me — his attitude didn’t surprise me in the least. People are pretty selfish, pretty uninterested in others woes, and pretty willing to dismiss others’ fears, concerns, and emergencies with the slightest excuse.
But at the same time, it was a bit too much for me to believe that nobody would remember the little girl; that not one flight attendant besides the conspirator would have noticed her. It was a bit much that the family in the seat ahead would dismiss their daughter’s claim to have seen her, mentioned by the daughter at the end.
And Foster’s character was, plainly, an idiot. A very smart idiot, but an idiot all the same. Why she gave the gun to the captain is beyond me; why wouldn’t she instead use it to disable and immobilize the kidnapper? Why wouldn’t she use it to kill him, and retrieve the detonator device? Why, indeed, did he bother to go back onto the plane when it was empty?
While, in mid-movie, it seems like a clever strategy to have a woman freak out about her child as part of the distraction, the gambit to get the money from the airline, it seems to me unlikely that it would work as simply as all of that. I don’t know, I find myself having a hard time believing that Foster’s character would also blow up the air marshal when, after all, she didn’t need to do so to escape. (It’s not as if he’d have caught up to her if she’d just fled with her daughter.) And it seems to me unlikely that people would suddenly stop considering her a terrorist, after the plane blew up, just because she did in fact have a daughter on board. If people are so stupid and easily persuaded, then who’s to say they wouldn’t remain convinced? Who’s to say they wouldn’t think the presence of the child onboard wasn’t also a part of the woman’s elaborate ruse, a bit of insurance policy thrown in to make sure she would get away with things?
Still, there is one more bit of the way I saw the movie that I think is worth mentioning, which is this: it seems to me that there were moments when the filmmaker(s) ‘ efforts were aimed at criticizing the Bush Administration’s handling of 9-11. For example, there was the harassment of the Arabs on board, completely groundless but, once begun, very difficult to contain. (Rednecks joined in on the hatefest as soon as it started, and one of the Arabs on the plane even rather harshly attacked Foster’s character at one point, knocking her out.) And then there was the speech by the air marshal about how people respond to authority without thinking. This, especially, seemed like a comment aimed at something bigger than the behaviour of people on the plane.
Criticisms like this are fine, but what worries me is how distracted from reality it seems Americans are. Airplanes and terrorists are still a nexus of fear, and to me that seems dangerous because, frankly, terrorists are NOT going to use airplanes next time something big happens in America or anywhere else. Think about it: has any major terrorist attack happened in the air since 9-11? I can’t remember any. Car-bombs, yes. Anthrax mailings, yes. But the air transport infrastructure is tied up way too tight for anyone to even bother using airplanes as weapons again, at least for a long time. It’s like having your tires slashed once, so that you think the only way anyone will ever mess with you again is by slashing your tires. What an idiocy! Next time, someone won’t slash your tires; he or she might egg your house, toilet paper the tree in your friend yard, drop a cherry bomb in your mailbox, shut off the electricity, spraypaint your windshield, or put urine in your gas tank, but the tire-slashing thing, that’s usually a one-off. And plane-hijacking is definitely a one-off…
… but if you’re sitting there just watching your tires, who’s watching your house?