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Flightplan theatrical poster
Flightplan theatrical poster
Written by Peter A. Dowling
Billy Ray
Directed by Robert Schwentke
Produced by Robert DiNozzi
Charles J. D. Schlissel
Brian Grazer
Starring Jodie Foster
Peter Sarsgaard
Erika Christensen
Kate Beahan
Greta Scacchi
Sean Bean
Music by James Horner
Cinematography by Florian Ballhaus
Editing by Thom Noble
Studio Touchstone Pictures
Imagine Entertainment
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release Date September 23, 2005
Rated PG-13
Run time 98 min.
Budget $50 million
Grossed $223,387,299

Flightplan is a 2005 thriller film directed by German film director Robert Schwentke and starring Jodie Foster, Peter Sarsgaard, Erika Christensen, Kate Beahan, Greta Scacchi, and Sean Bean. The movie was loosely based on the 1938 mystery film The Lady Vanishes. It was released in North America on September 23, 2005.

Flightplan received largely positive reviews.


Kyle Pratt, a U.S. aircraft engineer employed in Berlin, Germany, is widowed with her six-year-old daughter Julia after her husband David fell off the roof of their building to his death. Kyle decides to bury him on Long Island, USA. They fly aboard a passenger aircraft which Kyle helped design. After falling asleep, Kyle wakes to find that Julia is missing. She begins to panic, and Captain Marcus Rich is forced to conduct a search. None of the passengers remember seeing her daughter, Julia has no register in either the Berlin airport or the passenger manifest, and Kyle cannot find Julia's boarding pass. Marcus and the other crew members suspect that Kyle has become unhinged by her husband's death, and has imagined bringing her daughter aboard. One flight attendant Stephanie is particularly unsympathetic. Faced with the crew's increasing skepticism regarding her daughter's existence, Kyle becomes increasingly desperate. Because of her increasingly erratic, panicked behavior, air marshal Gene Carson is ordered to guard and handcuff her.

Marcus receives a wire from the hospital in Berlin that says Julia was with her father when he fell off the roof and also died of internal injuries. Kyle furiously denies it. The crew believes she is delusional. A therapist, Lisa, on board tries to console her, causing Kyle to doubt her own sanity until she notices that a heart Julia had drawn earlier on the window next to her seat is real. Kyle is emboldened and convinces the therapist to let her use the bathroom. Instead of doing so, she climbs into the upper compartment and sabotages the aircraft's electronics, deploying the oxygen masks and interrupting lighting. She uses the chaos to take a dumbwaiter to the lower freight deck. She desperately searches for Julia and finally opens her husband's casket, at which she emotionally breaks down. Carson finds her, puts her in handcuffs and escorts her back, announcing that she will be arrested as soon as they land.

Kyle makes a final plea to Carson that she needs to search the plane upon landing. Carson considers for a moment, then decides to speak to the captain. He sneaks back into the freight deck to remove two explosives and a detonator concealed in David's casket, then climbs down to the avionics section, revealing Julia who is sleeping (presumably drugged). He attaches the explosives to the side of the platform. At this point, it is revealed that Carson, Stephanie, and the mortuary director in Berlin are part of a conspiracy. Carson tells the captain that Kyle is a hijacker and is threatening to blow up the aircraft unless the airline transfers $50 million into a bank account. The conspirators actually murdered David and abducted Julia in order to frame Kyle. Carson tells an unnerved Stephanie that he intends to blow up the aircraft, killing the unconscious Julia, and leave Kyle dead with the detonator in her hand.

After making an emergency landing at Goose Bay Airport in Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada, the passengers exit the aircraft as the tarmac is surrounded by U.S. FBI agents. As the captain is leaving, Kyle runs to speak to him with Carson in tow. The captain demands she give the charade, stating $50 million demanded by her has been paid. Realizing the truth, Kyle decides to take advantage of the role of hijacker, demanding Carson stay on board and the crew disembark. Carson hesitates and too realizes that if he refuses then it would be seen that the charade would be his.

As soon as the plane's door closes, Kyle knocks Carson unconscious with a fire extinguisher, handcuffs him to a rail, and takes the detonator from his pocket. Stephanie comes out of hiding. Carson regains consciousness and fires at Kyle with a concealed gun, sending her running. He chases after Kyle shooting, until she locks herself in the cockpit. She opens a hatch door to the plane's attic and throws out a binder to fool him. Carson hears the upstairs thud and leaves. Kyle exits and encounters a guilt-ridden Stephanie, who panics and flees the plane.

Kyle searches avionics and finds the unconscious Julia. Carson soon follows, and while searching, tells her how he gagged and dumped her daughter into the food bin. He disparages the people aboard who would never care enough to notice. Carson points his gun to where Julia lay before, but finds it empty. He turns around and sees Kyle carrying Julia into the hatch of the cargo hold, with the detonator in hand. Carson shoots at her as she closes the door. With the non-combustible walls of the hold to protect them, she detonates the explosives while leaning on David's coffin, killing Carson. As Kyle carries her daughter out onto the tarmac, all the passengers are shocked upon realizing that she had been telling the truth the whole time.

At the airport terminal, Marcus approaches and comments how much the two of them look alike. He also apologizes to a seated Kyle for his skepticism. Stephanie is led away by the FBI in handcuffs. An agent approaches Kyle and asks her to identify the mortuary director in Berlin who has been detained. Kyle carries Julia still unconscious through the crowd of passengers. All are stunned, and somewhat guilt ridden for not believing her. One of the Arab passengers helps pick up her bag, as an act of respect and forgiveness. Before loading her daughter into a van to take them away, Julia wakes up and sleepily asks "Are we there yet?" as they get ready to leave.


The Pratt family[]


  • Peter Sarsgaard as Gene Carson
  • Kate Beahan as Stephanie
  • Christian Berkel as Mortuary Director

Airline crew[]

  • Sean Bean as Captain Marcus Rich
  • Erika Christensen as Fiona


  • Greta Scacchi as Lisa
  • Michael Irby as Obaid
  • Assaf Cohen as Ahmed
  • Shane Edelman as Mr. Loud
  • Mary Gallagher as Mrs. Loud
  • Haley Ramm as Brittany Loud
  • Forrest Landis as Rhett Loud



Peter A. Dowling had the idea for the film 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.

The basic premise of the plot (albeit with a very different denouement) is quite similar to a 1955 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents entitled Into Thin Air.


Director Robert Schwentke said that to make the film as realistic as possible, he wanted naturalistic, subdued performances. One of the examples was Peter Sarsgaard, whom he described as an actor "who can all of a sudden can 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. The director also picked each of the 300 passengers through auditions.


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".

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. 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. BE Aerospace provided various objects of the decoration. 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. Most exterior scenes of the plane involve a model with one tenth 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.


Box office[]

Flightplan grossed $89,602,378 at the domestic box office and over $223,000,000 worldwide. It also grossed $79,270,000 on DVD rentals.

Critical reception[]

The movie was met with mixed reviews from critics. It has a 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In his review Roger Ebert described the film as 'a frightening thriller with an airtight plot'.


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


The film score of the movie was released September 20, 2005, on Hollywood Records. The music was composed and conducted by James Horner and the disc contains 8 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.

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