Foster trades a panic room for a panic plane.

"Flight is intolerable contradiction." Muriel Rukeyser

The age of kick-butt women in film is alive and maturing, as Jody Foster in Flightplan extricates herself from an apparent kidnapping of her daughter aboard a flight to the states from Berlin. Red Eye with Rachel McAdams has a similar situation with a female exec freeing herself from a fellow passenger who demands her involvement in an assassination long before the flight.

Both women are attractive and successful. Both women are vulnerable because of a loved one, who is threatened if she does not cooperate. Both women use wit and brawn to combat the bad guys. Wes Craven's Red Eye is much more layered in characterization and plot--in Flightplan Kyle Pratt (Jody Foster) is an engineer who has helped design the very plane she is riding on, but there is little more to her than the recent loss of her husband and maybe her daughter.

Her engineer's knowledge of the plane's innards is a creatively useful element; the suspicion that Arab passengers may have fomented a plot to highjack the plane is not. The boisterous passenger, the furtive looks among the flight crew who don't believe her story, and the annoying children in the next seat are among the staples of the genre.

The writers don't go beyond the expected in plot structure either: First Pratt is considered a nut case because her child is not listed on the manifest nor did anyone see her; next, a small clue begins the final determination of her lunacy or sanity; finally the truth is confronted, and the chase ensues with the woman showing serious craftiness and physical stamina. The obligatory twist occurs on time, that is, many minutes after the audience figured it out.

Why Pratt is thrust into this situation is not clearly shown either, making this film a disappointment in almost every corner of cliched genre. Thematically the film deserves some praise: Personal privacy has been breached once again, a subject dear to Ted Kennedy and Dick Cheney's hearts; single mothers are abundant in society and prey to outside forces often male; airline security, even with its beefed up sensing equipment and traveling air marshals, still has holes that filmmakers and terrorists exploit much to our chagrin.

Just another fly-by-night thriller.