Sunday, 21 February 2021

Netflix And Chill: Snakes On A Plane (2006)

Okay, I understand if you hate the idea of Snakes On A Plane because, as it was developed, decisions were made to lean into the silliness of the b-movie concept and try to create an instant cult hit. Some people view that as a cynical ploy, and they think it makes the film a lesser one. That's not really true though, is it? You could say that most major movies are made that way, with a central idea fleshed out and tweaked to appeal most to whatever demographic they're aiming for. Snakes On A Plane may not be a major movie, but it certainly tries to be a hugely entertaining one, with the budget used well as things move quickly from one enjoyable set-piece to the next.

Nathan Phillips plays Sean Jones, a young man who has witnessed an execution carried out by the deadly and powerful Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson). With his life in danger, Sean ends up in the care of Agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson), a man who convinces him that the best way to stay alive is to testify against Eddie Kim and get him in jail. The two board a plane to Los Angeles. And that's where the main plan starts to become clear, with Eddie Kim having apparently exhausted every other possibility in his thoughts about stopping Sean. The plane is full of typical disaster movie stereotypes. You get a flight attendant (Claire, played by Julianna Margulies) on her last job, a young woman (Mercedes, played by Rachel Blanchard) with a small dog, a mother and child, two unaccompanied minors, a horny couple, a moaning Brit (Paul, played by Gerard Plunkett), and others. There's also Three G's (Flex Alexander) and his two "minders" (Troy, played by Kenan Thompson, and Big Leroy, played by Keith Dallas). The timer counts down. The snakes are released from their container in the hold. There have been pheromones sprayed strategically to, in the scientific parlance, send them fucking mental. 

As silly as you expect it to be, Snakes On A Plane is also a fun rollercoaster ride for the runtime of 1 hour and 45 minutes. It is much more terrifying if you really have a phobia of snakes, which I found out this time around while watching it with someone very ophidiophobic. But no matter how you feel about the creatures, there's no denying that this film tries hard to make everyone squirm, showing you snakes casually snaking their way into places they really shouldn't (biting boobs, coming up from toilet bowls, heading up skirts, nestling inside bags, etc). The script by John Heffernan and Sebastian Gutierrez mixes things up nicely, also building up the problems caused with the actual mechanics of the plane.

Moments of dodgy CGI aside, although some of it holds up surprisingly well (it's very hit and miss, as you might expect considering the time it was made and budget), director David R. Ellis does good work at the helm. The layout is easily displayed, the characters get to interact with one another, and one or two deaths are actually unexpected. The snakes are varied enough, although most of the deaths result from them lashing out to bite people, and the perils doted around the plane are numerous as panic takes hold.

Jackson may get to deliver THAT line, and is his usual cool self, but everyone else mentioned does well to remember what film they're in. They play their roles with admirably straight faces, going through some standard soap opera moments. I'm not going to say that anyone here is doing anything worthy of awards recognition, but everyone knows the tone of the film. Lin Shaye, Sunny Mabrey, and Bruce James also do well as the other flight attendants, David Koechner and Tom Butler are the pilots, and Bobby Cannavale and Todd Louiso end up working together, as FBI agent and snake expert, respectively, to race against time in order to deliver a variety of anti-venoms to the victims, IF the plane can land somewhere in time.

It ain't high art, but this is absolutely perfect fodder to liven up an afternoon, or to enjoy any evening when you want something that doesn't require too much thought. I have owned the DVD for years now, and this recent rewatch was an even better viewing experience than the last time I watched it (and not JUST because my girlfriend sometimes cried out "oh, shit the bed" during certain moments of serpentine carnage).


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