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Flightplan is a 2005 psychological thriller mystery film directed by Robert Schwentke, written by Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray, and starring Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Erika Christensen, Kate Beahan, Greta Scacchi, Sean Bean, and Matt Bomer (in his film debut). A co-production of the United States and Germany, the film's narrative follows Kyle Pratt, a widowed American aircraft engineer living in Berlin, who flies back to the U.S. with her daughter and her husband's body only to lose her daughter during the flight and must struggle to find her while proving her sanity at the same time. [N 1]

Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Schwentke
Produced byBrian Grazer
Written by
Music byJames Horner
CinematographyFlorian Ballhaus
Edited byThom Noble
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • September 22, 2005 (2005-09-22) (Premiere)
  • September 23, 2005 (2005-09-23)
Running time
98 minutes[1]
  • Germany
  • United States
  • English
  • German
Box office$223.4 million[2]

Flightplan was distributed by Touchstone Pictures and was released worldwide theatrically on September 23, 2005. The film received mixed reviews from critics who acclaimed the performances of its cast but found the screenplay less competent. It grossed over $223 million.


Recently widowed Berlin-based American aviation engineer Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster) is taking her husband David's body back to the U.S, after his untimely death. She and her six-year-old daughter, Julia (Marlene Lawston), board an Aalto Airlines Elgin 474, an aircraft Kyle helped design. Awakening from a short nap, Kyle finds Julia missing. None of the passengers or crew recall seeing Julia. Flight attendant Stephanie (Kate Beahan) later claims there is no record of Julia boarding and the passenger manifest indicates the child's seat as unoccupied. Julia's boarding pass and backpack are also missing. Kyle insists Captain Marcus Rich (Sean Bean) conduct a thorough search of the aircraft.

Kyle becomes increasingly desperate, unjustly accusing two Arab passengers, Obaid (Michael Irby) and Ahmed (Assaf Cohen), of kidnapping Julia and plotting to hijack the aircraft. Captain Rich and the flight attendants, particularly Stephanie, suspect Kyle is unhinged by her husband's death and may have imagined bringing her daughter on board. Because of Kyle's increasingly erratic and panicked behaviour, Captain Rich orders sky marshal Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard) to guard and handcuff her.

Later, Captain Rich receives a wire from a Berlin hospital claiming Julia died with her father. Kyle furiously denies this and insists the search continue. A therapist, Lisa (Greta Scacchi), consoles Kyle, who starts doubting her own sanity until she notices the heart Julia drew on the foggy window next to her seat. Kyle asks to use the bathroom and, once inside, climbs through a trapdoor into the airliner's overhead crawl space. She sabotages the aircraft's electronics, deploying the oxygen masks and cutting power to the aircraft lighting. During the ensuing chaos, she rides a dumbwaiter to the lower freight deck, finds and opens David's casket using the lock code, suspecting Julia may be trapped inside. It only contains her husband's body. Carson finds her and escorts her back to her seat in handcuffs. He says the flight is making an emergency stopover at Goose Bay Airport in Newfoundland, Canada where she will be taken into custody.

Kyle makes a final plea to Carson to search the aircraft upon landing. Before speaking to the captain, Carson sneaks down the freight deck and removes two explosives and a detonator concealed in David's casket, then goes to the avionics section, plants and arms the explosives where a presumably drugged Julia is sleeping. It is revealed at this point that Carson, Stephanie and the Berlin mortuary director are part of a conspiracy to hijack the aircraft for a $50 million ransom and frame Kyle as the hijacker, due to her job and knowledge of the aircraft. The conspirators kidnapped Julia to force Kyle to unlock the casket as she is the only one who knows the code. Carson lies to Captain Rich that Kyle is threatening to bomb the aircraft unless the ransom money is wired to a bank account and a G3 aircraft is readied upon landing. He then plans to detonate the explosives, which will kill Julia and leave Kyle dead with the detonator in her hand.

After landing in Newfoundland, the tarmac is surrounded by U.S. FBI agents. After the passengers disembark, Kyle apologizes to Captain Rich for disrupting the flight but is certain Julia will be found. Angered, Captain Rich demands she drop the charade, stating that the ransom has been paid. Kyle realizes that Carson is the perpetrator and, assuming the role of hijacker, demands Carson remain aboard and the crew leave. Carson realizes he cannot refuse without giving himself away.

When the airliner door closes, Kyle knocks Carson unconscious with a fire extinguisher, handcuffs him to a rail, and takes the detonator. Stephanie appears and uncuffs Carson as he regains consciousness. He shoots but misses Kyle as the latter locks herself in the cockpit. She tricks Carson thinking she has left the cockpit by throwing a binder into the attic. Meanwhile, a panicked Stephanie flees the airliner after a small altercation with Kyle.

Kyle finds the unconscious Julia in the avionics area and narrowly avoids Carson. He reveals that he abducted Julia and dumped her in the food bin and that David was murdered to conceal the explosive in his casket which are not required to be x-rayed. Kyle, carrying Julia, escapes into the aircraft's non-combustible hold. When Carson finds Julia gone, he turns his back and taunts Kyle, who closes the hold's door behind her just as Carson starts shooting at her. Leaning on David's casket, she detonates the explosives, killing Carson and destroying the front landing gear.

At an airport hangar the next morning, Captain Rich apologizes to Kyle. As a handcuffed Stephanie is led away by FBI agents, one of the escorting agents informs Kyle of the arrest of the Berlin mortuary director, asking her to identify him. She carries the still unconscious Julia through the crowd of passengers to a waiting minivan while the passengers realize the truth. As an act of respect and forgiveness, Obaid helps Kyle load her luggage. Julia awakes and sleepily asks, "are we there yet" as the minivan drives away.




Peter A. Dowling had the idea for Flightplan in 1999 on a phone conversation with a friend. His original pitch for producer Brian Grazer involved a man who worked on airport security doing a business trip from the United States to Hong Kong, and during the flight his son went missing. A few years later, Billy Ray took over the script, taking out the terrorists from the story and putting more emphasis on the protagonist, who became a female as Grazer thought it would be a good role for Jodie Foster. The story then focused on the main character regaining her psyche, and added the post-September 11 attacks tension and paranoia. There was also an attempt to hide the identity of the villain by showcasing the different characters on the plane. Both Dowling and Ray were allowed to visit the insides of a Boeing 747 at the Los Angeles International Airport to develop the limited space on which the story takes place.[3]


Schwentke said that to make Flightplan as realistic as possible, he wanted naturalistic, subdued performances. One example was Peter Sarsgaard, whom he described as an actor "who can all of a sudden become a snake uncoiling". First-time actress Marlene Lawston became Foster's daughter Julia. Sean Bean was cast to subvert his typecasting as a villain, and mislead audiences into thinking he was part of the villainous plot.[3] The director also picked each of the 300 passengers through auditions.[4]


Schwentke described Flightplan as a "slow boiling" thriller, where the opening is different from the faster ending parts. The director added that sound was used to put audiences "off-kilter".[3]

The art direction team had to build all the interiors of the fictional E-474 from scratch, including the cockpit. The interior design and layout is similar to an actual airplane, the Airbus A380. It is noted that the amount of dead space within the cabin, cargo and avionic areas do not reflect the actual amount of dead space within any aircraft. BE Aerospace provided various objects to "stage the scene"; "many of the interior sets used real aircraft components such as seats, gallies, etc."[5]

Of special note in the movie is the avionics computer seen below the cockpit and the clean space between the upper deck passenger areas and the fuselage. To allow for varied camera angles, the set had many tracks for the camera dolly to move, and both the walls and the ceiling were built on hinges so they could easily be swung open for shooting. The design and colors tried to invoke the mood for each scene - for instance, a white room for "eerie, clinical, cold" moments, lower ceilings for claustrophobia, and wide open spaces to give no clues to the audience.[4] Most exterior scenes of the "E-474" involve a model with 1/10th of the aircraft's actual size, with the images being subsequently enhanced through computer-generated imagery. The explosion in the nose involved both life sized and scaled pieces of scenery. A one-half scale set of the avionics area was constructed to make the explosion and fireball look bigger.[3]


The score for Flightplan was released September 20, 2005, on Hollywood Records. The music was composed and conducted by James Horner and the disc contains eight tracks. Horner stated that film's score tried to mix the sound effects with "the emotion and drive of the music", and the instruments were picked to match the "feelings of panic" Kyle goes on through the film. These included Gamelan instruments, prepared piano, and string arrangements. No brass instruments are used in the soundtrack.[3]


Box officeEdit

Flightplan opened at #1 in US and Canada, grossing over $24 million in its opening weekend. It grossed $89,707,299 at the domestic box office and $133,680,000 overseas for a worldwide total of $223,387,299.[2] It also grossed $79,270,000 on DVD rentals.

Critical responseEdit

Film historian Leonard Maltin in Leonard Maltin's 2012 Movie Guide (2011) described Flightplan as "suspenseful at first, this thriller becomes remote and un-involving; by the climax, it's just plain ridiculous."[6]

Aviation film historian Simon D. Beck in The Aircraft-Spotter's Film and Television Companion (2016) noted that Flightplan was careful in setting the scene. " The aircraft is a fictional mammoth airliner called the 'E-474', a double-deck jumbo modeled strongly after the Airbus A-380, the large size being suitable for the missing-person plot of the film."[5]

Flightplan received mixed reviews from critics and public alike. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 38% rating based on 173 reviews from non-critics, with an average rating of 5.3/10. The site's consensus states: "The actors are all on key here, but as the movie progresses, tension deflates as the far-fetched plot kicks in."[7] Metacritic an aggregate site, reports a 53 out of 100 rating, based on 33 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[8]


The Association of Professional Flight Attendants called for an official boycott of Flightplan, which they say depicts flight attendants as rude, uncaring, indifferent, and even one as a "terrorist."[9]



  1. ^ The plot's basic premise (albeit with a very different denouement) is similar to a 1955 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents titled, "Into Thin Air", as well as Hitchcock's 1938 film The Lady Vanishes. It is also reminiscent of the 1950 British film So Long at the Fair.


  1. ^ "Synposis: 'Flightplan' (12A)." British Board of Film Classification, September 26, 2005. Retrieved: November 14, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Box office: 'Flightplan' (2005)." Box Office Mojo. Retrieved: September 26. 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e "In-Flight Movie: 'The Making of Flightplan'." Flightplan DVD, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Cabin Pressure: Designing the Aalto E-474." Flightplan DVD, 2019.
  5. ^ a b Beck 2016, p. 99.
  6. ^ Maltin 2011. p. 472.
  7. ^ "Reviews: 'Flightplan' (2005)." Rotten Tomatoes (Flixster), November 14, 2015.
  8. ^ " Reviews: 'Flightplan'." Metacritic (CBS Interactive). Retrieved: November 14, 2015.
  9. ^ "Flight attendants hope to ground 'Flightplan'." Today, September 29, 2005. Retrieved: January 30, 2015.


  • Beck, Simon D. The Aircraft-Spotter's Film and Television Companion. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 2016. ISBN 978-1-4766-2293-4.
  • Maltin, Leonard. Leonard Maltin's 2012 Movie Guide. New York: Plume Books, 2011. ISBN 978-0-452-29735-7.

External linksEdit