Home > Disaster, Horror, Thriller > Snakes on a Plane (2006)

Snakes on a Plane (2006)


Okay, think of things that scare you. Think long and hard. Scared of flying? Congratulations – you share the #1 fear amongst Americans. Scared of snakes? Hey, that’s a major fear as well, and an instinct hardwired into our psyche. Guess what? New Line Cinema decided to put them together in one movie, added Samuel L. Jackson, and stirred. A simple concept, with a simple plot.

They called it Snakes on a Plane. And it was awesome.

Snakes on a Plane is an action-horror film directed by David R. Ellis and starring Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Marguiles, and Nathan Philips, along with lots and lots of snakes and just enough of a plot to contain them all.

While Sean Jones is vacationing in Hawaii, he witnesses a gangster named Eddie Kim murdering a witness, and naturally finds himself on Kim’s hit list. FBI Agent Neville Flynn is assigned to get Sean safely back to the mainland so he can testify against Kim in Los Angeles, putting Sean in first class on a passenger jet under security so tight it seems that Kim won’t be able to get within a mile of him. However, Kim has managed to come up with the only plan that the FBI hasn’t trained for: a time-released crate filled with hundreds of venomous snakes. After we meet a number of airline disaster sterotypes sharing the jet with Sean, the plane takes off, and midway through the flight the crate pops open. Naturally, snakes ensue.

Now, by the time this movie was made, the serious airline disaster movie had already been ruined forever by Airplane!, but the disaster genre as a whole had recently experienced a resurgence through the 90s and the turn of the 21st century. The “serious” disaster movie had been completely supplanted by the “fun” disaster movie, and that’s exactly what this is. In essence this is the Scream of airline disaster movies – a self-referential work poking fun at its own genre even as it offers thrills and scares (I mean, how can being stuck in an aluminum tube at 23,000 feet with hundreds of snakes not be scary?) Eddie Kim, the theoretical driving force for the core of the plot, drops almost entirely out of the movie once the plane takes off, but that’s okay – the movie wasn’t really about him to start with.

The casting was well-done here. Samuel L. Jackson is badass as usual as a no-nonsense FBI Agent opposite a terrified Nathan Phillips as Sean Jones, each trying to deal with the crisis in their own way. A few fun facts: news of Jackson’s casting largely inspired the fan-written line about motherf***ing snakes on a motherf***ing plane, but he threatened to drop out when his agent wanted to change the very descriptive title Snakes on a Plane to something more serious, on the theory that Jackson “can’t work” on a movie called Snakes on a Plane. Jackson assured his agent that the very awesome title was the only reason he wanted to work on the movie in the first place. And this is why he is awesome. In the supporting cast, we have a bevy of airline disaster stereotypes: the nervous guy who hates to fly, the ditzy blonde socialite with the yipyap dog, the unapproachable celebrity, the arrogant businessman who hates everyone else on the flight, the kids flying alone, the horny couple in the Mile High Club, the woman with the baby, the retiring flight attendant on “one last flight”, and the ambiguously gay male flight attendant. However, since this movie is already playing with its own genre, it plays with the supporting cast as well: the unapproachable celeb is a germophone, the woman with the baby helps draw venom out of a kid’s arm, the kid’s brother helps a herpetologist determine what snake bit the former, and the ambiguously gay flight attendant isn’t gay, just really enthusiastic. (Yes, seriously.)

If you like disaster movies and are looking for a fun homage to the airline disaster movie, absolutely check out Snakes on a Plane. It’s the movie inspired by a hundred airline disasters which in turn inspired a hundred internet memes.

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