Snakes on a Plane
The art of cinema can do many things. It can enlighten, inform and criticize society. With all these haughty aspiration we sometimes forget the initial function of the movies is to entertain. There has always been a genre of film that is often dismissed by many in the film industry, ‘B’ flick. There is an honorable history to these movies but they serve a much needed purpose, they are fun to watch. One such flick is ‘Snakes On A Plane’. While many films have titles that are cryptic this one tells you what to expect. There is a plane and there are going to be snakes on it. We have all seen the set up many times over. A group of people are trapped in some claustrophobic place, in this case a jumbo jet. Populate this place with people that not only represent a wide cross section of standard cinema stereotypes and introduce the menace, poisonous snakes. The reasons for the people being there as well as any rational for the snakes is almost a MacGuffin, an old Hitchcock term for something important to the characters but not the audience. We’re not watching this film for something that makes sense, we want to see people get bitten by the snakes and the people whack the serpents with everything in sight. It doesn’t matter if it is a lonely house with a monster or a summer camp and a serial killer all that matters is it is fun to watch. Okay, I might as well examine some of the plot lines. After all someone out there may care about what brought the reptiles and humans in contact.
Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson) is the head of a mob family and the target of many federal investigations. He goes over the line when he orders the death of a prosecutor who was closing in on him. The Feds manage to get a surfer dude witness to the murder to testify. Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips), the dude, is being escorted from Hawaii to Los Angeles by two FBI agents, Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) and John Sanders (Mark Houghton). The flight is a red eye and as such it is sparsely populated. Among the other passengers are germaphobe rapper Three G (Flex Alexander) and his two massive bodyguards Troy (Kenan Thompson), who is addicted to video games and the aptly named Big Leroy (and Keith Dallas). There is also a Paris Hilton wannbe, Mercedes Harbont (Rachel Blanchard) complete with her fashion accessory Chihuahua, Mary-Kate. A young Hispanic mother, Maria (Elsa Pataky) is traveling with her infant. Two unaccompanied minors, Curtis and Tommy Brown (Casey Dubois and Daniel Hogarth) are also on board as are professional kick boxer Chen Leong (Terry Chen), honeymooners Tyler (Tygh Runyan), who is deathly afraid to fly and his new wife Ashley (Emily Holmes). There has to be a curmudgeon on board and this role is filled by a British businessman Ashley (Emily Holmes). He is upset that he has been moved to business class from first class at the request of the FBI agents. The crew consists of flight attendant Claire Miller (Julianna Margulies) who is about to become a lawyer, senior attendant Grace Bresson (Lin Shaye), the effeminate Ken Corsett (Bruce James) and co-pilot Rick Archibald (David Koechner). Instead of just hiring a sniper or explosives expert Eddie has some imaginative men in his employ. They figure the best way to shut surfer boy up before he can testify is to load a crate filled with a plethora of poisonous snakes on board, tamper with the ducts so they can slither their way to the passenger compartment, damage the environmental controls to make sure the temperature is just right for the little beasties and set a timer to let the snakes out mid air. Since under current flight regulations you can’t bring a tube of toothpaste on a flight this must have seem like something no one in Home Land Security would every think of.
Was this film made according to a formula? Yes, of course it was but that is a large part of the classic ‘B’ flick. Almost every scene is telegraphed to the audience. Let’s see, we have a man going into the plane’s restroom, a well rounded breast and an annoying, yappy dog all surrounded by snakes. Do you really have to wonder what is going to happen? Like the nubile teenage girl who feels the need for a shower in the middle of the night, we all know the killer is behind the door but we don’t care. This is like the flicks I used to go into the city to watch on Saturdays. We sit there with your friends, hoop and holler at the screen and eat popcorn. You don’t analyze the film you just experience it. This is not a move for those involved with the art of cinema; it is for those of us that love movies. There are no deep meanings here just, as the title states, snakes on a plane.
There may be a lot of other actors in this flick but the real focus is on Samuel L. Jackson. He brings his unique style of swagger and self confidence here with flair. Jackson is one of the busiest actors in the business today and for good reason, he can draw in an audience and hold us there. He commands the screen whether he is in something serious or just having fun. Julianna Margulies is best known as the head nurse on the long running television drama ER. Here she is feisty, smart and ready for anything. One thing that some may find disappointing is they writers seem to have to explain how a flight attendant can be so intelligent by making her character a law school student.
One down side of this film is how it was marketed. It was everywhere. This was a case of media overload with commercial tie ins on everything from tee-shirts to viral videos to contests. Don’t hold this against the flick. Warner Brothers has done an excellent job of bringing this soon to be classic midnight madness flick to DVD. There is a full screen version but frankly, why bother, go for the widescreen so you can see every crawling critter. The video is robust with a great color balance. The Dolby 5.1 audio will fill the room. The channel separation is far better than average, the rear speakers give a natural ambience and the sub woofer springs to life at just the right moments. There is an audio commentary track featuring director David Ellis and star Samuel L. Jackson. As they comment on the film it is easy to see that they never took this project for more than it is. There are also a great selection of featurettes that detail how the snakes where put on the plane using CGI and a real box full of slithering creatures. A nod to the internet hype is given with a blog feature. Rounding things out there is a music video. There is nothing wrong with turning off the higher reasoning functions of the brain for a little while to enjoy a flick like this. Invite some friends over, tap a keg and order some pizza. This is a perfect weekend movie.
Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherf***ing snakes on this motherf***ing plane!