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This article is about the 2005 film. For the aeronautical term, see Flight plan. For other uses, see flight plan (disambiguation).
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Robert Schwentke
Produced by
Written by
Music by James Horner
Cinematography Florian Ballhaus
Edited by Thom Noble
Distributed by Buena 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
Budget $50 million
Box office $223.4 million[2]

Flightplan is a 2005 German-American mystery-thriller 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, and Sean Bean. The film, distributed by Touchstone Pictures, was released theatrically in the United States on September 23, 2005.

The film is about Kyle Pratt (Foster), an American aircraft engineer working in Berlin, Germany with her husband and six-year-old daughter. After her husband dies, Kyle decides to return home with her daughter and the casket to the U.S. A few hours into the flight Kyle and Julia fall asleep, and Kyle wakes moments later to find that Julia is missing. She begins to panic when none of passengers remember her daughter, and when the stewards tell her that her daughter is not on the flight manifest the airplane staff begin to think Kyle is delusional. 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", as well as Hitchcock's 1938 film The Lady Vanishes.


Kyle Pratt (Jodie Foster), a successful American aircraft engineer employed in Berlin, Germany, is widowed with a six-year-old daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston) after her husband David falls off the roof of their building to his death. Kyle decides to bury him in their hometown back in the U.S., on Long Island, New York. They fly aboard an Aalto Airlines Elgin 474, a huge passenger aircraft that Kyle helped design the engines for. A few hours into the flight, Kyle and Julia fall asleep, and Kyle wakes moments later to find that Julia is missing. At first calm, she begins to panic when none of the passengers or flight attendants claim to have seen her. One of the flight attendants, Stephanie (Kate Beahan), calls the Berlin airport that they departed from and, shockingly, she claims that the gate attendant told her they have no record of Julia boarding the flight. In addition, the passenger manifest registers Julia's seat as unoccupied, Kyle cannot find Julia's boarding pass, and when she goes back to her seat to look for it in the overhead bin, she finds that Julia's backpack has also disappeared. Fearing somebody has her, Kyle forces Captain Marcus Rich (Sean Bean) to have the flight attendants conduct a thorough search of the plane while all of the passengers are told to remain in their seats and not to get up for any reason, including using the plane's toilets.

As the search goes on with nothing being found, Kyle becomes more and more desperate, and even goes so far as to attack and unjustly accuse two Arab passengers (Michael Irby and Assaf Cohen) of kidnapping Julia and plotting to hijack the plane. Capt. Rich and the flight attendants (particularly Stephanie, who is exceptionally unsympathetic) start to suspect that Kyle may be unhinged by her husband's death and that she imagined bringing her daughter onboard. Because of her increasingly erratic and panicked behaviour, Capt. Rich orders sky marshal Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard) to guard and handcuff her.

Later, after releasing all the passengers from their seats, Capt. Rich informs Kyle that he received a wire from the hospital in Berlin, saying that Julia was with David when he fell off the roof and also died of internal injuries. Kyle furiously denies this, saying that Julia wasn't even there when David died and continues to insist that she brought her onboard. The crew now believes that she is delusional and Carson escorts Kyle back to her seat. A therapist, Lisa (Greta Scacchi), tries to console her, and Kyle begins 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 search the plane again under the pretense of using the bathroom. While in the lavatory, she uses a trapdoor leading to the plane's attic where she sabotages the aircraft's electronics, deploying the oxygen masks and cutting the power to the aircraft's lighting. She uses the ensuing chaos to take a dumbwaiter to the lower freight deck and desperately continues her search for Julia. She then notices David's casket and (thinking that Julia may be trapped in there) frantically opens it, only to emotionally break down as it contains just the body of her husband. Carson finds her, handcuffs her, and announces that the flight will be making an emergency stopover at Goose Bay Airport in Newfoundland, Canada where she will be arrested (presumably for disorderly conduct and inducing panic). As she is once again led back to her seat, all of the passengers applaud Carson as they are now fed up of Kyle's antics disrupting the flight.

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 Capt. Rich. Before doing so, 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) and her backpack. He attaches the explosives to the side of the platform and arms them. At this point, it is revealed that Carson, Stephanie, and the mortuary director in Berlin (Christian Berkel) are part of a conspiracy. Carson makes up a story to convince Rich that Kyle is a hijacker and is threatening to blow up the aircraft with explosives hidden in the un-Xrayed casket unless the airline transfers $50 million into a bank account and a G3 is readied upon landing. Carson then tells an unnerved Stephanie that he intends to blow up the aircraft, killing the unconscious Julia and leaving Kyle dead with the detonator in her hand.

After finally landing in Newfoundland, the passengers exit the aircraft as the tarmac is surrounded by U.S. FBI agents. As Capt. Rich leaves, Kyle runs to speak to him with Carson in tow, apologizing for disrupting the flight and claiming that Julia will be found. Angered, Capt. Rich demands she give up the charade, stating the $50 million she demanded has been wired. From this, Kyle realizes that Carson is the real perpetrator and decides to take advantage of the role of hijacker, demanding Carson stay on board and the crew disembark. Carson hesitates but realizes that, if he refuses, it would be seen that the charade was 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 and uncuffs Carson as he 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 the avionics and finds the unconscious Julia. Carson soon follows and, while searching, reveals to her how he secretly gagged, sedated, and dumped her daughter into the food bin before disparaging the passengers who would never care enough to notice, as well as revealing that David's death wasn't accidental and that he was murdered by the conspirators so they could use his casket to conceal the explosives (as caskets are not required to be x-rayed). 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, Kyle 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, Capt. Rich comments to Kyle on how much the two of them look alike before apologizing 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 the still unconscious Julia through the crowd of passengers, and one of the Arab passengers helps pick up her bag, as an act of respect and forgiveness for her having earlier suspected him of being involved in the kidnapping. Before loading her daughter into a van to take them away, Julia wakes up and sleepily asks "Are we there yet?" as they prepare to leave.




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.[3]


Schwentke said that to make the film 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. 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.[4] 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.[3]


The score 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.[3]


Box office[edit]

Flightplan 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 response[edit]

The film received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 38% rating based on 173 reviews, 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."[5] Metacritic reports a 53 out of 100 rating, based on 33 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[6]


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".[7]


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

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