FREQUENT VIEWERS OF the Lifetime Movie Network know it, as do the producers of Nancy Grace’s eponymous “debate” show: Barring the availability of a convenient serial killer (or killer storm), nothing draws viewers like missing children. Sure, war violence is scary, but kidnappings, which are seemingly more frequent and inevitable than ever, are in many ways far scarier. You can almost feel the parental paranoia spike with every new AMBER Alert.
In Flightplan Jodie Foster plays Kyle Pratt, a jacked-up Lifetime mom who faces not just stranger danger but also terrorism when her six-year-old daughter, Julia (Marlene Lawston), implausibly vanishes aboard a jumbo jet. The small family is traveling from Berlin to New York with a tragic mission: to bury Dad, whose coffin is loaded into the plane’s belly as Julia solemnly watches. Director Robert Schwentke, working from a script by Billy Ray (Shattered Glass) and Peter A. Dowling, foreshadows gleefully, playing off travel fears in the manner of another recent in-flight thriller, Red Eye. Not only is there a group of Arab men aboard (who will later be harassed by a frantic Kyle, who declares she doesn’t care about being politically incorrect), but the plane takes off amid icy, unsettling weather conditions. Above and beyond all that, Schwentke establishes a general air of danger that cloaks Kyle from the start