Plane is as direct as its title. The new Gerard Butler movie, which the actor has also co-produced, promises a nightmare in the air that continues on the ground – nothing more, nothing less. On this count, the film amply delivers.

Commercial pilot Brodie (Butler) is navigating an aircraft out of Singapore. Since it is New Year’s Day, the plane has very few passengers but also one flier (Mike Colter) who will prove important to subsequent events. An emergency landing brought on by bad weather on a remote island in the Philippines is only the beginning.

Jean-Francois Richet’s fleet action thriller has been co-written by Charles Cumming and JP Davis. There’s just about enough background information to form emotional connections with Brodie and his co-pilot Dele (Yoson An). The focus is on the here and now – the nitty-gritty of cockpit behaviour, the panic that sets in as turbulence hits, the behaviour of the passengers, the reaction of the airline.

The 107-minute film kicks into high gear after Brodie crash-lands the aircraft. Despite some convenient plotting, the heart-stopping action and general air of breathlessness ensure that the movie is as gripping on the ground as it was in the skies above. Brodie’s actions might border on the heroic, but they are just this side of plausibility (perhaps he should have been on the Air India flight that Shankar Mishra was on).

Gerard Butler’s tough-tender performance is as unassuming and efficient as the film itself. There are well-balanced turns from the rest of the principal cast, especially Yoson An and Daniella Pineda as the flight stewardess, which compensate for the overwrought performances of the textbook villains.

Plane (2023).