Well my title might be a little misleading. Because I don’t think the characters in the film were ever really terrified, just maybe slightly alarmed. The danger seemed almost laughable, and still slightly plausible. But the execution of the script never really made be feel for the characters to care what happened to them. Although the film did deliver one of my favorite lines in cinema as only Samuel L. Jackson can deliver it, Snakes on a Plane was filled with a smorgasbord of seemingly repetitive shock effects that the suspense and “terror” is drowned out and does not sustain the film for its nearly 105 minute run time.
The plot is simple and seemingly basic. Jackson plays FBI agent Neville Flynn. He is on a flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles transporting a witness (Nathan Phillips) to testify against a bad man. The bad man is so bad that he manages to load the cargo of the plane with crates of deadly, poisonous snakes. And that’s how the snakes get on the plane. The snakes get loose and begin creating havoc among the passengers of the plane killing several. The survivors then have to deal with the threat of the snakes for the remainder of the flight. The survivors include flight attendants Juliana Margulies, Rachel Blanchard, Lin Shaye and Bruce James; passengers Sunny Mabrey, Flex Alexander, Kenan Thompson, Keith Dallas, and pilot David Koechner (who later meets his demise, but more on that in a bit). There are a few others but they’re hardly worth mentioning. They either die early in the film or they have such a low impact on the story or outcome of the film that they don’t really deserve a mention.
While the survivors scramble to keep alive, Flynn is in contact with his FBI buddies on the ground and gets them to scramble around to find a snake expert to develop anti-venom to treat the ones who have been bit, but still stay alive long enough for the plane to miraculously land. It makes for some mindless entertainment but it is not thrilling enough to keep me totally involved in the story.
Some problems exist with the story. How does the villain of the story know for sure the snakes would get out? (I mean supposedly there is some kind of pheromone or something released which apparently gets the snakes agitated and that’s why they start attacking everyone, but if they don’t get out then what’s the point?) As I said, the pilot survives for a while, even after getting bit in the arm, but then later is killed late in the second act. Now there is no one to fly the plane. So Flynn asks if there is anyone with any kind of flight experience. And guess who has experience – Kenan Thompson. However, his experience comes from a flight simulator. The miraculous landing comes from Thompson taking the controls and Jackson delivering his line about getting these “motherfucking snakes off this motherfucking plane.” His plan is to shoot out a window and watch as the snakes get sucked out of the plane while holding on for dear life. The plane is safely landed in the hands of someone who is just good at a video game, which might be plausible in the world of this film but still seems a bit far-fetched.
What else can be said of Snakes on a Plane? Not much. With its flaws and low-key performances, it does have some credibility, just not much to write home about. Perhaps just enough to write a seemingly scathing review for a blog? Well here it is. This film might be another one of those movies that would be good for some mindless entertainment on a lazy afternoon, but nothing more than that. David R. Ellis’ direction was nothing great here. Maybe in the hands of a more prolific director it might have been something, but as it is it leaves something to be desired. The script, written by John Heffernan and Sebastian Gutierrez, left a lot to be desired and seemed mediocre at best.
So if you’re in the mood for some great acting, a good story, compelling characters, then you might have to check out something else like a Scorsese picture. You won’t find much of that here. But if you want to kick back, have a few laughs, and let your mind wander in the presence of tedious storytelling and senseless action, then pop some popcorn and buckle in.