Snakes on a Plane is not as bad as some people make it out to be. What else is there for the ‘trapped in a hurtling metal cylinder 6 miles above the earth’ genre, anyway? Killer koalas? The snakes are a fun device; get over it.
Here’s a preview:
Released August 18, 2006
Written by John Heffernan, Sebastian Gutierrez, and David Dalessandro
Directed by David R. Ellis
Starring Julianna Margulies, Samuel L. Jackson, Rachel Blanchard, Nathan Phillips, Kenan Thompson, Sunny Mabrey, and Elsa Pataky
* * * * *
Surfer and all around outdoorsy guy Sean (Phillips) witnesses a brutal murder in Hawaii by evil guy Eddie Kim. Convinced to go into the FBI’s protection and testify against Kim, Sean heads to LA with Agent Neville Flynn (Jackson). They are booked on a red-eye flight from Hawaii to LAX, on which they have taken over the entirety of first class.
Kim knows about Sean and has already tried to kill him once, so it comes as no surprise that Kim has a plan to get rid of the potential witness. This plan comes in the form of a huge crate of vicious snakes. The crate is set to open on a timer and nearby crates of leis are covered in a pheromone that will drive the snakes nuts. The idea is to bring the entire plane down in what would be seen as a freak accident.
The snakes wreak havoc with the plane, killing people in all sorts of creative ways. The surviving passengers and crew members hole up in first class, fending off snakes and trying to get the plane safely to LA. A snake expert is called in over in Los Angeles to try to help officials on that end be ready to help the victims of the snake attacks.
Throughout all of it, Sean, the easy-going surfer dude, has to decide what’s important and what his role in the world needs to be. His protector, Agent Flynn, has to be bad-@$$ and heroic. The flight attendant who is on her last flight before leaving the biz and going to law school (Margulies) has to help, while other characters are there to show humanity at its best and worst.
And all of this happens on an airplane, with some very good and very bad snake effects and a few genuine jump moments.
It’s easy to criticize Snakes on a Plane. It’s preposterous, technically very inaccurate when it comes to the snakes and the plane itself, and the characters aren’t very smart. Honestly, how hard would it be to make the plane really cold and pretty much ice the snakes in one move? You’d think the snake expert would suggest that.
What’s more, Phillips is not exactly a textured actor and Jackson is there mainly to be a mean, determined son of a gun.
Thankfully, Margulies can’t help but be a very fine actress and the story, while preposterous, follows solid archetypes and is technically pretty good.
What you end up with is absurd B-movie stuff that is better than a B-movie because of the nice peripheral performances, some character surprises, and some surprisingly nice redemption stories. Yes, the jerky businessman gets his. Yes, the potty-mouthed flirt finds a grain of decency and ends life heroically. Yes, the older brother does, in the end, save his brother.
So it’s silly, over the top, technically jarring, but overall, a satisfying film. The satisfaction comes from some surprisingly deft touches with scenes where characters are given time to find their place and truth. Plus, the snakes are creepy and there are real jump moments here and there.
Also, you realize that the guy joining the mile high club is Tim Riggins, right?
Content warnings: Plenty of profanity, particularly the most quoted line of the film; sensuality, some top nudity, and drug use; violence and snake blood; some ugly scenes as snake victims perish messily.
Writing: 3 Acting: 3 Overall: 3
Don’t believe me? Check out the reviews for Snakes on a Plane at Rotten Tomatoes.
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