Follow TV Tropes


Film / Flightplan (2005)

Go To

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. Moreover, Julia's name is not on the flight manifest and there is no evidence that she was ever on the plane. 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:

  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: A variation of this where the passengers applaud Carson for arresting Kyle after all the hullabaloo the latter put them through.
  • Apathetic Citizens: Lots of people did see Julia running around the cabin but somehow none of them remembered this (though some of the kids on board did) or noticed the bad guys walking off with her. When 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. To be fair to them, this was immediately after she had endangered everyone on board with her antics.
    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!
  • Advertisement:
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When confronting her alone on the plane, Kyle asks Stephanie if she has the guts to essentially kill Julie, a little girl and somebody's daughter, in cold blood for money. This is enough to catch Stephanie off-guard long enough for Kyle to deck her.
  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: The big twist.
  • 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 her 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.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In a sense. Kyle has found her daughter Julia alive and cleared her name. And Carson has been blown up by the very bomb he planted for this conspiracy. All the passengers are safe, and the remaining accomplices of the conspiracy are being interrogated. But this is also a hollow victory, as the passengers feel guilty at having earlier cheered on Carson for arresting Kyle. They'll have to live with the regret that their apathy nearly cost a little girl her life. But as a small token of apology, one of the passengers Kyle wrongfully accused earlier helps her with her luggage.
  • Broken Bird: Kyle is clearly this after the untimely death of her husband. She must cast that aside though once her daughter goes missing.
  • Cassandra Truth: Given that Julia has seemingly disappeared without trace and there is no evidence she was ever on board, Kyle cannot convince anyone she is telling the truth.
  • 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 for a Deceased Fall-Guy Gambit would have worked out brilliantly... if they had used literally anyone other than the woman who designed the damned plane!
    • Nothing better shows how 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 had 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: The heart Julia drew on the window confirms that Kyle isn't going crazy and hadn't just imagined that her supposedly dead daughter was on the plane.
  • 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 then 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 plane is a dangerous place to be.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Compared to Carson, Stephanie gradually grows nervous as the conspiracy goes on, hinting she's feeling guilty about having to kill Julia as part of the plan. During the climax, when Kyle asks if she would kill a little girl for money, Stephanie's hesitation strongly implies even she doesn't think it's right.
  • Fall Guy: One of the main goals of the plan is to frame Kyle for the hijacking in order to provide the villains with cover to escape.
  • Final Exchange: After finally rescuing her daughter, Kyle takes the detonator to the bombs on the plane. Carson nearby asks her if she was going to blow up the plane. Kyle answers, "No, only you." Cue an Oh, Crap! moment when he finds where the bombs are.
  • Frame-Up: The villains' plan is to collect $50 million in ransom money from the airline, but frame Kyle as the hijacker who used the pretext of a missing child to pull it off.
  • Gambit Roulette: The entirety of the plan of the villain requires such an insane amount of factors that are required to go right that, in reality, there's no way this could happen and that it's not even a surprise when the plan ends up failing.
  • 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.
  • Genre Shift: The first half plays out as an interesting psychological thriller, where we begin to believe the main character actually imagined her daughter and was completely crazy from grief. But then it turns out her daughter actually WAS kidnapped, and every single one of her crazy and far fetched ridiculous theories were right, and terrorists actually DID kill her husband and kidnapped the daughter to get her to look crazy. It ends up as just another generic action flick with guns, explosions, and cheesy one liners.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Kyle is typically a man's/boy's name.
  • Greed: It's revealed late on in the film that Air Marshal Gene Carson planned on hijacking the plane, framing Kyle as the scapegoat, and blowing up Julia simply because he wanted $50, likely to feed off his ego
    Carson: You have no idea how happy I'm going to be to end this case.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Downplayed. The flight attendant who was in on the plot with Carson doesn't help Kyle. But she does show a guilty conscience at carrying on the conspiracy at the expense of a little girl, somebody's baby. What's more, she doesn't help Carson any further when Kyle decks her.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: What the villains are ultimately trying to pull on passengers of the flight. They intended to make everyone think the Kyle was using her claims about Julia to draw attention from the fact that she was hijacking 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.
  • Missing Child: Doesn't get much worse than the panic that comes when your child is missing.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailers made out the film to be a legitimate horror thriller. Turns out it merely plays with those elements in what is an elaborate kidnapping plot.
  • Oh, Crap!: Bonus points for being one for multiple reasons at the exact same time. While under the impression that the crew is disembarking the plane so a significantly more thorough search can be made for Julia, Kyle rushes out to the captain to speak to him one last time. The captain, believing that Kyle has been playing them all as Carson has said, royally chews her out for trying to "continue the charade'' and bitterly trying to assure her that she'll get her money as she demanded even though Carson is trying to get him to be quiet. Not only does this essentially clue Kyle in on what's happening (and that she and her daughter are both in grave danger), but it also exposes Carson's plan and effectively ruins his chances of succeeding. Both of them are standing right there as the captain says all this.
  • Out-Gambitted: Kyle ultimately foils the hijackers by using the fact that the crew thinks she is the hijacker to her advantage; she tells 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
  • Paranoid Thriller: Two thirds of the film is spent unsure of whether the mother is delusional or being conspired against, but it turns out to be the latter.
  • 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 of one in the hold?
  • Public Secret Message:
    Gene: Got two questions for you: What're the movies? And how loud do these headphones go?
    Stephanie: Never quite loud enough.
  • 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.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Stephanie, the flight attendant who aided Carson attempted to flee from him after being decked by Kyle. Despite this, she got arrested for her part in aiding his scheme.
  • The Sociopath: Carson is clearly a textbook example of this. His position as an air marshal is strongly suggested to be a cover for his criminal and unlawful activities as he crosses lines that NO law enformement officer would ever dare to cross. He appears to have absolutely no empathy whatsoever as indicated by blowing up an innocent 6-year old child to get away with his crimes and the fact that he doesn't even seem to be interested in making himself look good unless it benefits his plan. Not to mention the fact that he risks his own life by coming up with a plan that would be realisticly IMPOSSIBLE in reality and would absolutely get him caught. He is very good at being charming and his most advanced skill seems to be consumate lies, and on top of that his motivation (getting away with robbing $50 million) is not based on reality whatsoever.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Used on Kyle several times, by the captain and by Carson.
  • 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.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The success of the entire plot relies almost solely on nobody among the passengers acknowledging that Kyle and Julia had boarded the plane together.
  • We All Live in America: FBI agents in Goose Bay? Don't think so.
  • Western Terrorists: Gene and Stephanie.
  • Whole Plot Reference: The plot is very similar to Alfred Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, most notably the missing person's existence being proven by their having drawn on window condensation.
    • The missing person being a little girl and her mother's struggles to prove she existed also drew lots of comparisons to Bunny Lake is Missing.
  • 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.
  • Workplace-Acquired Abilities: Kyle is an airplane propulsion engineer. Her skills are handy for searching the plane, switching off the light and bringing down the oxygen masks.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: While she was legitimately trying to find her daughter/prove that she was kidnapped, there is still the fact that Kyle sabotaged the plane (forcing an unplanned landing), terrified the passengers and falsely accused and assaulted one of them. This is all just ignored at the end.

Alternative Title(s): Flight Plan