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Film: Flight Plan

Flightplan is a 2005 thriller film directed by Robert Schwentke and starring Jodie Foster.

Foster plays Kyle Pratt, an airplane propulsion engineer whose husband has mysteriously died from falling off the top of a building. She and her six-year-old daughter, Julia (Marlene Lawston), are now heading back to Long Island from Berlin aboard the massive new passenger plane she helped design, the Elgin 474. The body of her husband is in the hold.

Three hours into the flight the two take a nap; when Kyle wakes up, Julia has disappeared without a trace. Everyone on board the plane, including air marshal Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard), flight attendant Stephanie (Kate Beahan) and Captain Marcus Rich (Sean Bean) insist that they never saw her daughter, and that her name is not even listed on the flight's manifest. That's when things get crazy.

Critical reception was mixed to negative. While the performances of the principal cast are praised; the plot is criticized as being riddled with holes and Fridge Logic.

Not to be confused with Japanese video game developer Flight-Plan, or Non-Stop, another thriller on a plane.


Flightplan provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adult Fear: In the SKY!
  • Apathetic Citizens: Lots of people did see Julia running around the cabin but after her mother raised a fuss and got the airplane redirected, the assholes cheered at seeing her dragged back to her seat in handcuffs by Carson, the bastard who kidnapped her.
    Carson: We picked her up, shoved her into a food bin and nobody even looked up. You understand what I'm saying? Nobody cares about Julia!
  • Batman Gambit: Pulled on every passenger except Kyle. All Carson had to do was sucker Kyle into pissing off the Apathetic Citizens, and they took everything he said as gospel truth since that meant they had someone to blame for the inconvenience. Even if Kyle was perfectly calm despite her daughter disappearing into thin air, that would simply creep the passengers out even more. Yeah, the movie's not that far-fetched.
    Carson: People will think what I tell them to think. That's how authority works.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: The core of the Big Bad's plan. Kyle pulls one of own to turn the tables on the Highjackers late in the film. Using the fact that the passengers and crew think she's the highjacker to her advantage to make everyone get off the plane so she can look for the bomb and Julia without interference.
  • Complexity Addiction: The villains could have just as easily put some explosives in an ordinary briefcase, rigged it with a remote detonator, and just talked to the airline via email. Murdering Kyle's husband and kidnapping her daughter were an unnecessary complication meant to give them a Fall Guy to cover their escape.
    • Nothing better shows who overly complicated their plan is than by remembering that step one involved Murdering an American expatriate just so they could use his casket to smuggle the bomb on board the plane,and to get his wife and daughter on board the flight to set up a Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit. If the authorities even suspected that Gene was involved in Kyle's husband's death. Or if Kyle herself had stayed to cooperate with the investigation if the police suspected foul play. The plan would have been foiled before it even got off the ground.
  • Condensation Clue
  • Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit: What the villains plan would have become in its final form. After arriving in their final destination, they would have made all the other passengers leave with Kyle still in custody. Quietly sneaked off the plane, detonated the bomb that was strapped onto Julia vaporizing her body and destroying all evidence she was ever on board and killing Kyle who would still be on board. They than tell their story to the authorities, get praised as heroes and jet to a nice warm, extradition free island to enjoy their money before anyone realizes that a thing or two doesn't add up.
  • Death in the Clouds: This plan is a dangerous place to be.
  • Fall Guy: One of the main goals of the plan is to frame Kyle for the highjacking in order to provide the villains with cover to escape.
  • Gambit Roulette: Gene had to...
    • Get Kyle's husband onto the roof of a building and push him off without anyone seeing.
    • Know in advance exactly where the body would be taken.
    • Risk involving the morgue director in The Plan.
    • Know which flight the coffin will travel on.
    • Ensure that he got assigned to that flight and ensure Stephanie gets assigned to that flight.
    • Get explosives into a coffin for which he didn't know the combination.
    • Rely on Kyle and Julia getting on board without anyone noticing Julia. Rely on Julia not speaking to anyone, not making any noise, and not asking for anything, rely on there being empty seats on a packed inaugural flight of a new aircraft type, rely on Kyle taking Julia to lie on those seats, rely on no-one seeing Julia's removal, rely on no-one noticing a man putting his hand into a sleeping woman's trousers, rely on Julia going ballistic rather than just calmly talking to people and making requests, somehow manage to get the computerized check-in systems to "forget" Julia, rely on Kyle not requesting the airport authorities check the inevitable CCTV footage, rely on the corrupt stewardess being the one assigned to search the section with the kidnapped child, rely on the captain/airline contacting the morgue (to ask what?) rather than the hospital or police and thus get the fake information, rely on no-one, immediately on hearing of the child's death, asking why her coffin is not on board, rely on Kyle escaping and opening a coffin that she believes is sealed when there are dozens upon dozens of other luggage containers in the hold, rely on the authorities agreeing to the ransom without talking to the so-called terrorist, rely on them actually transferring the money — how would an alleged terrorist have known if it had been transferred? — find a way to get the money when the authorities knew exactly where it was, rely on the exploding child leaving no trace with an amount of explosive so small it didn't even hurt two people who were no more than ten meters away when it went off — which would not happen — expect someone with no explosives training to know that the explosives present were of such low power that they would be safe no more than 10 meters away, and have the corrupt stewardess remain on the plane (necessary to distract Kyle so that the marshal could free and arm himself) — how would that have been explained later? Why would she even have remained? This plot, to put it charitably, is simply not within the realm of physical possibility.
  • Gas Lighting: Much of the action involves the villains trying to convince Kyle, and by extension the rest of the passengers and crew, that she's suffered a break from reality. Subverted in that it's much more effective on the witnesses than the target.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: What the villains are ultimately trying to pull on passengers of the flight. The intended to make everyone think the Kyle was using her claims about Julia to draw attention from the fact that she was highjacking the plane. By focusing on her, no one would pay attention to them and no one would suspect anything.
  • Just a Kid / Not Now, Kiddo: These tropes are the only reason why the Big Bad's plan did not fall apart the moment kids all started to say they saw Julia.
  • Just Plane Wrong: Yeah, aircraft windshields don't shatter like that, otherwise the pilots would be in grave danger if they ever did.
  • Mama Bear / Knight Templar Parent: Kyle. Her actions potentially put hundreds of lives at risk and she accuses passengers of terrorism (seemingly just on the grounds of them being/looking Arabic). Granted, she foiled a terrorist plot and saved the day, but that's coincidental. As far as she's concerned for most of the movie, it's just her daughter who's in danger, not the entire plane.
  • Outgambitted: Kyle ultimately foils that hijackers by using the fact that the crew thinks she is the hijacker to her advantage by telling everyone to leave the plane before Carson can do so, knowing that he would have to go along to avoid suspicion. Allowing her to search for the bomb and Julia without interference and completely turning the tables on them.
  • Plot Hole: Loads. For example; in order to calm her down and get her to accept that she was delusional and that her daughter had died along with her husband; why didn't they verify that there were two caskets instead not one in the hold?
  • Red Herring: We are led to believe the Arabs aboard are terrorists who kidnapped Julia as a hostage. In the end, it turns out they're not involved at all. Additionally, the pilot is played by Sean Bean, who has a history of playing villains. He isn't involved at all either.
  • Tech Marches On: This film came out two years to early for what little plausibility the villains plot may have had to be completely blown to hell by the rise of modern Social Media and smartphones. Just one look at Kyle's Facebook, Foursquared or Linked In or even a Google search of her name, would reveal enough evidence supporting her story cause the crew to overule Carson and look deeper.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: The big twist.
  • Unnecessarily Large Interior: The plane is shown to have enough empty and unused space for Kyle to play Metal Gear Solid with the airplane staff. Film-makers discussed researching actual commercial plane layouts, including getting copies of blueprints, and then tossing it all out for the demands of the plot.
  • Unperson: Julia is removed from the flight manifest and no one will claim they saw her.
  • We All Live in America: FBI-agents in Goose Bay? Don't think so.
  • Western Terrorists: Gene and Stephanie.
  • A Wizard Did It: The film comes within seconds of a Downer Ending because...
    Carson: People will think what I tell them to think. That's how authority works.


Fight ClubPsychological ThrillerHannibal
Final Fantasy VII: Advent ChildrenFilms of 2005 - 2009 The Fog

alternative title(s): Flight Plan
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