Lets get one thing out of the way from the start: This is a bad movie. It’s also a very well made and extremely entertaining one.
The plot is simple. An F.B.I. agent (Samuel L. Jackson) is escorting an important witness from Hawaii to Los Angeles. The diabolical bad guy comes up with the cunning plan to smuggle a crate of snakes onto the plane and release them mid flight (bet Osama wishes he’d thought of that one.) Jackson and the rest of the passengers must try to stay alive until they reach their destination. That’s about it for the plot.
This is essentially a modern take on the 70’s Airport series with added scares. The characters are all stereotypes — the celebrity, the ditsy blonde complete with pet dog, the newlyweds, and the flirty stewardess. You get the idea. Thankfully, director David R. Ellis realises this and uses it to the film's advantage, taking some of the viewers’ expectations and turning them on their head, while playing others for laughs.
The actors do a competent job considering they’re not exactly given well-rounded characters to play, although only Jackson and Julianna Margulies really make much of an impression. Margulies hasn’t exactly set the world alight since leaving ER six years ago (something of a mystery to me as I think she’s a terrific actress) so hopefully her role as the ‘spunky stewardess’ will lead to better things. She manages to turn a cardboard character into a likeable human being. The fact that you’re rooting for her to live to see the end credits shows how successful she is.
As for Sam, well, he doesn’t exactly give his acting muscles much of a workout. There’s nothing here we haven’t seen from him before. In fact this could easily be called Shaft 2: Snakes on a Plane. He relies on charisma to carry the film and, thankfully, that’s something he has by the bucket load.