January is often said to be a dumping ground for studios to release their pretty terrible films. And in some cases you’ll see a movie like M3GAN and be pleasantly surprised when it’s actually quite good. But then a movie like Plane comes along that’s just so horribly offensive and, simply put, bad, that it reinforces the stereotype of this being the month for garbage movies.
If nothing else I’m grateful to this movie for reminding me that I’m better off seeing something less offensive, like Babylon; a movie that begins with an elephant taking a giant disgusting dump on a man.
Plane is a brainless movie about a “tougher than average, take no prisoners” pilot who, after emergency landing in the Sulu archipelagos of the Philippines, must save his helpless passengers from evil Filipino terrorists.
If you’ve followed my writings here on The Nerds of Color, you’ll know that I am a proud Filipino American. So I should preface this by saying that perhaps my bias against this movie stems from how generally disrespectful its depictions of the Philippines, and Filipinos in general, are. And frankly it doesn’t even stop at Filipinos.
The whole movie is 90+ straight minutes of terrible Asian deaths. I have no idea what the hell the Asian community has done to writers Charles Cumming and J.P. Davis, or director Jean-François Richet, but within the first 20 minutes of the movie, an Asian flight attendant dies horribly. Soon after an Asian couple gets slaughtered by terrorists (the only red-shirt casualties among the passengers I might add). And since the terrorists are all Filipino, the body count of the villainous Filipinos at the hands of the White action hero and his African American partner rises and rises and rises as the movie slogs on through it’s craptacular cliché of a story.
I understand perfectly well this movie is supposed to take place in the Sulu island chain of the Philippines, where known cases of terrorism have occurred. But given that terrorism doesn’t just stop at the Philippines, and is, in fact, a global problem, couldn’t something with such a stupid and simple-minded plotline have taken place at ANY generic place or time? Why the Philippines? Why even name the enemy group?
If you take a look at a better film like Top Gun: Maverick or its predecessor, those movies tastefully refrain from naming any specific enemy group, and they end up telling better stories anyway. It’s not like specifically targeting a Filipino terrorist group is going to add an extra layer of verisimilitude to tell the garbage paint-by-numbers “pilot saves hostages” storyline of this garbage movie.
Furthermore, to make matters worse, the filmmakers could have even cast other Filipino Americans or Filipinos as some of the passengers to help combat the terrorists, to show that not all Filipinos are brutal, hostile, bloodthirsty terrorists. But no. It’s January. And Lionsgate needs to make a quick buck on an “America first, Asian massacre” movie with the world’s last remaining theatrical B-movie action star. It’s not until the very end where we at least see some paramedics from Siasi helping people that there’s any sort of non-negative depictions of Filipinos in this movie.
In case you can’t tell, I’m offended. This movie is offensive. And perhaps I’d be less upset if the film were any good. But sadly it’s not. This is a generic shoot-em-up fest that, unlike a film like M3GAN, is more self-serious than it should be. This sort of movie should be easy fun, but it’s not.
The action sequences are bland as hell: 80% of which are people just standing behind something and shooting. The VFX are garbage. At one point during the beginning storm sequences, I felt like I was watching a cheap flight simulator video game from the mid-’00s. And the acting for most of the film is pretty poorly done. I don’t blame the cast entirely for that one, as I know they’re probably all aware what film they’re in. And the forgettable and corny screenplay from Davis and Cumming doesn’t give anyone except Butler and Mike Colter a damn thing to do. But none of it is a pleasure to watch.
The only potentially positive thing I can give the film credit for are the performances of Butler and Colter, who attempt to do something with their poorly written characters. Colter’s character in particular is technically the only really remotely interesting character in the film, and may have been a lot more interesting if the film took time from the shooting and stabbing to develop him more. But he’s barely explored, and the movie’s so focused on killing Filipinos and other Asians that it clearly doesn’t want you to give a crap about these characters to begin with.
I usually go a lot deeper into my criticisms about films. But why waste my time and words on a movie that looks this bad, with action this generic, performances that are mostly bland or non-existent, and nothing enjoyable about it in the least. Offensive on so many levels, and without the decency of even being entertaining. This Plane can fly straight down into the January hell it deserves to burn in.
Overall Score (on an entertainment level): D
Overall Score (on a representation level): F