Sunday, September 25, 2005

Spoiler central

For my radio broadcasts, I have introduced the "Gothika" rule -- every so often, there will be a movie so terrible that I offer to spoil the ending for anyone who sends me an email. I got over 500 requests to divulge the ending of "Flghtplan" this weekend (didn't stop it from being #1 at the box office, though). Those who are looking for other spoilers can check out The Movie Spoiler which happily (and accurately) warns not only that endings will be revealed but that the archive section is very addictive!

My further thoughts on the problems with "Flightplan" appeared in the Chicago Tribune on September 26:


Does movie's premise fly?

By Nell Minow
Special to the Tribune
Published September 26, 2005

If you don't want to know key plot points of the movie "Flightplan," do not read this

In the new movie "Flightplan," Jodie Foster plays a recent widow bringing her husband's coffin home to be buried. Her young daughter disappears during the flight, and Foster's character, an engineer who helped design the plane, searches the entire aircraft as the crew and the federal air marshal onboard go from being concerned about a lost child to wondering whether the little girl was ever on the flight in the first place.

It turns out there's a massive murder, smuggling and extortion scheme afoot and, according to one of the characters, coffins are the only passenger flight cargo that do not get checked by security.

Can that be true?


Not exactly.

Obviously, the most preposterous aspect of the fiendish "Flightplan" plot is the very idea of hitting up a modern airline for millions. Tell it to the bankruptcy judge.

But as for the rest, we checked with Carrie Harmon, a spokeswoman at the Transportation Security Administration, the federal agency in charge of airport (and baggage) security. She said there are no security exceptions made for coffins. "Coffins are screened like other cargo through our `known shipper' program," she said. "Any cargo that goes onto a passenger airplane must be sent through a shipper that meets a broad range of very specific security requirements. It's not technologically feasible to screen 100 percent of the cargo, so our screening of items from known shippers is based on a risk-assessment system."

Cremated remains get X-rayed, though. "At one point we accepted documentation from a funeral home about the contents of funerary urns, but in September 2004 we determined that all crematory containers must pass through an X-ray machine," she said.

We also talked about the film with Dave Adams, spokesman for the Federal Air Marshal Service. Played by actor Peter Sarsgaard, the lone air marshal onboard in "Flightplan" has a secret.

Not realistic, Adams said. "We don't divulge the number of our people on the flights, but I can guarantee you that we never fly alone." What's more, he added, "there is a thorough background investigation. These are very highly screened, talented men and women doing an outstanding job every day."

He did endorse the film's accuracy on one point, however, when we asked if all federal air marshals are as attractive as Sarsgaard.

Adams said, "Of course!"

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