Flightplan, directed by Robert Schwentke, is a nailbiting thriller in which Kyle Pratt (played by Jodie Foster), an aeronautical design engineer, boards a flight from Berlin to New York accompanied by her six-year-old daughter Julia (played by Marlene Lawston). Her principal baggage is the coffin of her husband, who died under mysterious circumstances. Exhausted from the ordeal of his sudden death, Kyle stretches out on an empty row for three hours of sleep. When she wakes up, Julia is not around. The conundrum of the film then becomes “Where is she, who took her, and why?” After Kyle searches the passenger section, she demands to speak to the captain (played by Sean Bean), who in turn reluctantly grants permission for a more thorough search, which again comes up empty. However, the captain has prohibited a search of the cargo hold for reasons of safety. After being informed that the passenger manifest has no record of Julia as a passenger, Kyle becomes hysterical, and soon she is placed under the control of the sole air marshal (played by Peter Sarsgaard), who brings a therapist to try to calm her. Feigning a need to go to the toilet, the air marshal releases her, whereupon she exits the toilet through an overhead escape. Soon, she locates wires that control the plane and tampers with them just enough to force an unscheduled landing in Goose Bay, Newfoundland. Clues for solving the conundrum are sparse, so most filmviewers will be surprised by the ending. However, the plot has a few messages. One is that airplane protocols have changed significantly since 9/11, though the presence of only one air marshal seems at variance with those changes. A second theme is prejudice against Arabs; Kyle precipitately accuses five Arab passengers of kidnapping her daughter, and they respond with anger over her snap judgment. After Flightplan, will airplane flights ever seem the same? In any case, Flightplan slips neatly into the genre of films that began with Airport (1970). MH

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