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Movie Review: Flightplan (2005)

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Flightplan (2005) is a fine example of polished movie making coupled with a superb performance by Jodie Foster. Her immersive and engaging acting smoothes over the plot holes. It’s not that the script is poorly written, just that one aspect of the plot is implausible. The script’s pacing is tight and that together with Jodie Foster’s performance as the mother, Kyle, who finds her daughter gone.

The tight pacing and engaging acting maintains the suspense. It keeps you wondering how psychologically stable Kyle is and how far she would go to find her child. And Kyle does get quite extreme.

Flightplan approaches the issue of Authoritarianism from a different tangent by dramatising the psychological processes exploited rather than examining sociological, political or technological impacts, like, for example, Orwell’s 1984, Gattaca (1997) or Minority Report (2002).

The movie draws upon well-documented psychological phenomena regarding group and intergroup process in social influence. Conformity to the group is so strong a force that most individuals (70 percent) succumb to it. You could say, this movie pays tribute to the work of social psychologist, Dr. Solomon E. Asche.

Asch’s most famous experiments set a contest between physical and social reality. His subjects judged unambiguous stimuli “lines of different lengths” after hearing other opinions offering incorrect estimates. Subjects were very upset by the discrepancy between their perceptions and those of others and most caved under the pressure to conform: only 29% of his subjects refused to join the bogus majority. This technique was a powerful lens for examining the social construction of reality, and gave rise to decades of research on conformity. Stanley Milgram’s studies of obedience to authority were inspired directly by Asch’s studies.

The premise of the movie is how independent can your reasoning be in the face of geniune disbelief or dissent from your peers. Nowadays, a common tactic used in the media to influence public opinion is to make the targeted viewpoint or interpretation have the appearance of widespread acceptance or have majority support. This is to activate the Conformity phenomena. Flightplan dramatises how it could be used in a small-scale situation. So will Kyle break or will she not? Watch and see.

There is a nice subtext about racism. Kyle, on the edge, suspects that the Arab passengers have taken her child and gets into a claw fight with one of them. How the two make up is a rather nice piece of understated acting.

So will the polished script, tight pacing, fine acting, and strong premise make you forgive the movie for the implausibility of its antagonist’s plan? For me, it somewhat did. Though I do wonder if an old school mystery writer had been brought on, would there be a flawless plot?

Originally posted here.


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  • too bad for Jodie – the news about the flight attendents protesting gave away the movie. Wonder what that cost in gross.