After 2002's PANIC ROOM, Jodie Foster took a three year break before deciding to take another leading role in a major motion picture. Three years is a lifetime in Hollywood, but Foster is one of the few stars who can afford to take such a lengthy hiatus from the industry and still command major roles on her return. Robert Schwentke's FLIGHTPLAN is the movie Foster chose as her comeback vehicle; playing the recently widowed Kyle Pratt, she sticks close to PANIC ROOM territory, delving further into fear and isolation as her character boards an airplane to escort her dead husband's body from Berlin to New York.
Kyle brings her young daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston) on the plane with her, and they fly on a craft that was designed by the grieving widow during her tragic tenure in Berlin. But after a short in-flight nap, Kyle awakes to find Julia has disappeared. Her frantic search leads nowhere, and it seems no one on the plane can remember Kyle's daughter boarding the plane. An air marshal named Carson (Peter Sarsgaard) and the pilot of the plane, Captain Rich (Sean Bean), methodically ask Kyle some questions to determine where Julia could be, but she fails to produce any concrete evidence, not even a boarding pass. At this point, Kyle begins to doubt her own sanity, and Schwentke steers the movie through some surprising plot twists as his lead character teeters on the brink of madness. The second half of the movie drops the Hitchcockian intrigue (FLIGHTPLAN owes a sizeable debt to Hitchcock's 1938 thriller THE LADY VANISHES) and settles into a more straightforward action film, but Foster shines throughout. Credit is also due to cinematographer Florian Ballhaus, who unnervingly conjures up a palpable feeling of claustrophobia as the high-tech airplane endures a rocky journey through the skies.
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