Posted by: Ben | November 30, 2008

100 Movies: Snakes On A Plane.

(Film. Ellis. US, 2006)

[Let’s be honest, writing about these films as I finally get to see them isn’t going to help me get through this extraordinarily long list any quicker, but it’ll make me feel better about watching them. Builds week by week into a film guide to rival Halliwell’s, and like all the best film reviews, includes star, or at least asterisk, ratings for ease of reference.]

Sadly there is no scene where Jackson holds a snake to his ear, believing it to be a telephone. A fine comic opportunity missed.

So. Snakes. Plane. More words than can be counted have already been written in the service of this seemingly unlikely combination of elements. Whether the concept of inserting homicidal alethinophideae (and Jackson) in fixed-wing passenger aircraft was wrung out of a focus group or dreamed up by a Barton Fink type in hallucinogen-induced fever, once the idea had been posited it suddenly seemed obvious. Why had nobody thought of this before? Bin Laden must have kicked himself when he saw this film. (Perhaps they got the idea from the reality show Airport, wherein a woman was turned away from a flight for turning up with a box of lobsters.)

The snakes have naturally been driven beserk by a pheromone, explaining both their unexpected viciousness and their comic tendency to bite people on the genitals and erogenous zones. This is but one of a number of unlikely contortions that the screenwriters have had to go through to get the snakes past airport security checks onto the plane in the first place, including but not limited to: a gangster responsible for planting the snakes in a well thought-out scheme to eliminate a potential witness, a snake wrangler whose eclectic choice of snakes actually incriminates himself because he turns out to be the only guy in America or something capable of getting hold of all those different species, and did I mention the snakes were released by a timed explosive device with a red LED clock on it, because nobody checks those when they’re loading up an aircraft.

The film keeps a straight face throughout, and never winks at the viewer or suggests that anyone involved isn’t trying their best. It’s a little flat in a few places, and when it attempts to draw an emotional response from the viewer the result is a jarring but mercifully short-lived tonal shift. The biggest triumph of Snakes On A Plane, though, is that its thrills come just about quickly enough to compensate for the deficiencies in the plot.

*** (out of a possible *****)
Next time: Miss Potter or Schindler’s List or Lucky Number Slevin or The Cave Of The Yellow Dog or Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer or Flushed Away or something else.


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