"That's a nice-a donut."

Friday, August 25, 2006

Snakes on a Plane (2006)

You know the story by now; you've got to. Snakes on a Plane has ...snakes on a plane! But that's not important right now. What is important is that despite one of the most memorable marketing campaigns since probably the standard bearer, The Blair Witch Project in 1999, and a very intense cult fanbase (even before the film's release), the movie opened last weekend to rather disappointing box office returns. In effect, it suffered from part of what made the film concept so great in the first place. People simply expected it to be a bad film. With "eh, that looks like pure shite" from one group of people, while others were more optimistic: "it's so bad, it's good."

Here's the truth: Snakes on a Plane is not going to win a single Oscar or critic's group award. You probably already knew that already. But here's what you didn't know: Snakes on a Plane is a fun movie and is actually - dare I say... - pretty good.

Other than the opening title, the rather pedestrian beginning of the movie leaves not a hint of what is to come. Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) is riding his motorbike in Hawaii when he stops momentarily and happens to witness a brutal slaying by well-known crime lord Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson). Soon thereafter Kim's henchmen show up at Sean's place, but FBI agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) saves the day and convinces Sean to testify against Kim in court. This, of course, requires Flynn to escort him to LA on Pacific Air flight 121. Naturally, being the evil genius that he is, Kim manages to get a stockpile of exotic (and poisonous) snakes onto the plane in the cargo area. If they don't kill Sean directly, then maybe they will manage to create enough chaos to bring the whole plane down.

Eventually, after some gruesome deaths, Neville starts to take control of things. It's a fight between man and snake, with his eye on protecting his important witness but also on helping his fellow passengers and flight crew, including ER's Julianne Margulies as a flight attendant on her very last trip.

Through all this crazy mayhem, Jackson delivers an honest-to-goodness refreshing performance. He quite obviously had a grand time making the movie. He is in full-on kick butt, scene-stealing, Sam Jackson mode, taking the pieces of his best and most memorable roles such as Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction and Zeus Carter in Die Hard with a Vengeance. He makes great use of facial expressions, providing for several hilarious moments on the plane, such as a scene in the cockpit near the climax. And the infamous line that was added to the movie after principal photography had ended, allegedly after the suggestion of fans on the Net, is delivered with as much glee, terror, and conviction that you could possibly hope for from Neville the hero: "Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherf**king snakes on this motherf**king plane!"

For those in the "it's so bad, it's good" crowd, you're going to be pleasantly surprised. Sure there are a few plot holes, leaps of logic, and a couple other technical flaws, but none of them are fatal. It is funny (in a good way), terrifying and dramatic (where it needs to be), and audience-friendly (as it should be). In fact, Snakes on a Plane is one of the more audience-friendly films I've ever seen in the theater. Director David R. Ellis and company deliver everything they intended. It is a ton of fun and pretty much the perfect escape movie. I liken it to Independence Day, as far as just being a fun, entertaining movie. I completely recommend it to anyone looking for a good time.

The Verdict: B+.


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