– Summary –
Director : David R Ellis
Year Of Release : 2006
Principal Cast : Samuel L Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips, Bobby Cannavale, Rachel Blanchard, Flex Alexander, Kenan Thompson, Lin Shaye, Terry Chen, Elsa Pataky.
Approx Running Time : 106 Minutes
Synopsis: On board a trans-continental flight, a cargo-load of dangerous snakes escapes, entering the passenger cabin and causing havoc.
What we think : One-joke premise stretches plausibility to snapping point, but remains an engaging, stupid, energetic action romp with Jackson at his scenery and profanity chewing best. The key line of the film, about snakes on the plane, became a popular internet gag and is the sole reason this film was the success it was.
This hysterically amusing concept film takes Samuel L Jackson, sticks him on a plane, fills it with snakes, and let’s them lose. What, you expected more?
As a high concept film with support generated almost exclusively through a massive internet campaign (which, ultimately failed to generate the required audience to turn this thing into a profit, haw haw!) Snakes On A Plane (or, SOAP, as it affectionately came to be known) manages to turn a fairly lame idea and turn it into an adrenaline charged, cliched and intellectually disturbing movie with almost no redeeming features whatsoever. And for that, I think the film succeeds.
There’s no question that this film was only even made to satisfy the burning question of what would happen if you put a bunch of snakes on a plane and let them run wild? And not normal snakes either: you’ve got tropical, venomous, foreign and rare snakes running amok, creating havoc and ensuring nobody leaving the cinema after viewing this will ever become an ophiologist. Sam Jackson chews his way through the diabolically cliched script and pandering direction with the ease of a consummate professional. You know he’s taking all this about as seriously as a clown with a handful of pies. There’s a vague hint of a glint in his eye as he stares down the slithering foes, gun at the ready and a quick quip even readier.
Gallantly, the rest of the cast all try and keep straight faces while the film is in progress, but you have to ask yourself if anybody really ever thought this would be high art? Probably not, but it is a lot of fun.
It’s not the kind of film you can expect groundbreaking dramatic turns from all involved, no instead you get exactly what the title says. Snakes, on a plane. Pretty simple, and if you criticise this film for being stupid and moronic, then you obviously need to go back and re-read the title. It’s snakes, mo-fo, and a plane. The very title itself is a gimmick, so anybody brave enough to say that “this film can’t possibly happen”, “lacks realism”, is “dumb” and other such meaningful rubbish obviously stumbled into a film they assumed was another Judd Apatow comedy or something highbrow like that. C’mon, how can anybody in their right mind take a film like this seriously?
Structurally, SOAP follows the tried and true formula of action genre filmmaking. Take your hero, give him a heroic task (Sam Jackson’s FBI agent character has to escort a witness across country to a mob boss’s trial) and then make it damn hard for him. By any means necessary. So there’s snakes scrambling all over the plane. Well, all in a day’s work for Jackson, as he fights, critiques and condescends to others in the traditional Sam Jackson way. The film is full of minor set-pieces, various heroic deaths of minor characters, and the obvious last-ditch effort to save everybody by having the most inept person on the planet revise his PS2 Flight Simulator experience and guide down the enormous airliner. It’s cliched, cornball and utterly entertaining: as long as you remember it’s a film about frickin’ snakes on a frickin’ plane.
The scripting is pretty corny, after all, how would you react with snakes on a plane? The characters are purely one-dimensional, serving a minimal purpose to heighten tension and the body count. And you just know the body count is going to be high. After all, these snakes aren’t just your garden variety non-poisonous ones. Still, with the wit and verbosity of Hollywood’s finest scribes working on the screenplay, you might have expected better than what’s on offer here. Mind you, most people only came to see this film for Jackson himself, and it’s little wonder he gets the lion’s share of the best lines.
SOAP was screened for preview audiences before being released to the public, and one of the film’s key areas for improvement was the gore and violence (and sex) factor. Director David R Ellis went back and shot some more footage (including the obligatory mile-high-club experience in the plane’s bathroom between two hot young things!) to beef up the film’s appeal. The internet promotion on this film was enormous, perhaps more than any other film before or since. Studio heads would have been expecting the film to rake in the cash, and be a motherlode success story.
It wasn’t. For some reason, all those folks who raved about how much they wanted to see the film ended up staying away from the cinemas. The film ended up only taking in about double it’s production budget of $US30m, far less that the industry had expected given it’s awareness online. Which is frustrating, given that the film isn’t really that bad, and certainly doesn’t warrant not being a success. Even the majority of online critics praised the film upon it’s initial release. As far as a concept film goes, with the tongue-in-cheek wink-wink humor and style, SOAP is a damn fine entertaining film. You don’t have to think, you don’t have to suspend your disbelief (after all, it’s snakes on a damn plane, people!) and you most certainly don’t have to imaging yourself elsewhere. Its a fun, rollercoaster of a film, filled with high improbability and impossible situations: its a film. And what is film if not the highest entertainment artform we have today?
Snakes On A Plane is a roaring, slithering success.