This week, the theme for Wanderer's Thursday Movie Picks Meme is airplanes. This one makes sense, we have to find movies that prominently feature airplanes. That's simple enough. I've seen several of those. In fact, I wrote an entire essay about how Hollywood's representation of airplanes has been affected by 9/11. Airplanes make a good setting for a variety of reasons. The naturally cramped environment of the pressurized cabin alone makes for a very effective way to build up tension, not to mention that danger of being trapped thousands of miles above the ground. There was a reason Samuel L. Jackson was so angry about those Motherflipping snakes on that motherflipping plane.
So with that out of the way, here is my
This might have been an obvious choice, but who can argue with it? Even without the context of the 70's airplane disaster movies it was making fun of, it's still a hilariously surreal film with some good characters and a lot of strange wordplay. Surely, this one had to appear somewhere on somebody's list, and don't call me Shirley! Of course there are also some high stakes and a bizarre plot involving a Vietnam veteran with a literal drinking problem (as in he has trouble drinking) trying to win back his stewardess girlfriend while also having to save the passengers who have all eaten spoiled fish, but that's beside the point. It's the weird humor that makes this film so memorable.
Red Eye (2005)
Now for something a bit calmer, or not. The tension in this film is more psychological, coming from the interactions between the two central characters, rather than anything to do with the plane itself. Rachel McAdams plays a hotel manager who finds herself mixed up with a man who wants to use her for an assassination plot, and a lot of the movie is simply about how she has to figure out how to outsmart her would-be abductor. In that sense, it works as a surprisingly effective commentary on gender stereotypes, with Rachel McAdams constantly proving smart and resourceful while her male-co-star becomes increasingly emotional and irrational.
This is sort of a more modern interpretation of the "Die Hard on a plane" films that were common in the 90's. What makes this particular film interesting, however, is that it actually incorporates a lot of the ways in which airports have changed. Instead of the terrorists revealing themselves early on, they frame the protagonist as the hijacker (exploiting the security counter-measures towards this type of situation) in order to manipulate everyone. This naturally leads to a tough situation, as the hero must identify the bad guys among a large number of people trapped in a plane miles above the ground with no idea of who will be their next victim. It also has a really good performance from Julianne Moore.
Bonus: The Terminal (2004)
So this week is all about airplanes, so it naturally makes sense to touch on some related ground; namely the subject of airports. Spielberg's The Terminal does just that, placing all the action in a single airport. To put it mildly, it turns out that what goes on in the airport can be just as intense and exciting as what happens on the planes. There are a lot of different people with their own issues and goals whose stories all cross over with each other, and there is still plenty of drama to be found.