|Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Nathan Phillips, Rachel Blanchard, Julianne Marguilles, Keenan Thompson, Sunny Mabrey
Director: David R. Ellis
ALSO! Read our interview with director David Ellis.
Believe the hype. “Snakes on a Plane” may not be the Greatest Movie Ever Made, as “we” (and truth be told, that Bullz-Eye editorial “we” was just me) have been claiming it to be for the last year or so. But there is no denying that it is one hell of a thrill ride, and quite possibly the best popcorn movie of all time. Say what you will about the dialogue, the spotty acting, and the special effects, and any derogatory comments you make about any of those things are admittedly true. But watching the movie with a whole bunch of Snakes-on-a-Planiacs was the most fun I’ve ever had in a theater. Though please, resist the urge to hiss intermittently throughout the movie. Man, did that get annoying.
This is normally the paragraph where I explain the plot. The plot is that there are snakes on a plane, snakes that are driven batshit crazy by a pheromone that was sprayed on the leis that the flight attendants hand to the passengers (this is, after all, South Pacific Flight 121, as the movie was once briefly, stupidly, renamed). Why are there snakes on the plane? To dispose of a witness (Nathan Phillips) to a brutal murder committed by Hawaiian crime lord Eddie Kim (the dreadful Byron Lawson). Luckily, that witness is guarded by a Federal Agent that carries a wallet that says “Bad Motherfucker,” Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson). And Flynn is not going down as long as he has a taser, fire extinguisher, broken bottle on a stick, spear gun and makeshift flamethrower in hand.
Okay, truth be told, the first 15 minutes of the movie are death. The setup is painful (I’m not kidding when I say that Lawson is dreadful and beats every line of dialogue with a rake), and the exposition may as well have had subtitles for extra emphasis. But once that plane is airborne, I’ll be damned if any of that matters. It becomes a high-concept “Final Destination” movie (fitting, since director David Ellis directed “Final Destination 2”), where the main question is not who dies but how they die, and most of the people on this plane die gruesome, gruesome deaths. Ironically, the person who suffered the worst fate, in my mind, didn’t suffer it at the hands of the snakes (Jesus, I just said “hands of the snakes,” knowing full well snakes don’t have hands), but to say more would ruin a Fangoria moment.
So yes, the dialogue, despite going through nearly a half-dozen writers, could have used some serious work. Flipping between a PG-13 rating and an R rating or not, there’s no reason why it couldn’t have been smarter. Even Jackson seems to be in two modes here. Sometimes he’s alert and on top of his game, and other times he seems to be sleepwalking. Phillips is pretty much useless as the witness, though Flex Alexander does an amusing P. Diddy impression as the self-absorbed hip-hopper Three G’s.
Hmmm, it appears I’ve spent most of the review bashing the movie. So why am I giving it four stars? Because the experience of seeing it with such a rabid crowd trumped nearly all of the movie’s shortcomings. I had a blast watching “Snakes on a Plane,” even when the snakes were clearly CGI, or rubber. Don’t wait for the discount theater to see this one, and definitely don’t wait for the DVD. This is the kind of thing that you just have to see with a big, rabid crowd. Having a couple of drinks beforehand (like I did) isn’t a bad idea, either. And just watch what happens when Jackson utters his now-famous, fan-suggested line.
Some have speculated that “Snakes on a Plane” is a whole new beginning to filmmaking, while others have suggested that it’s in fact the death of it. I’m not sure either side is right, but I will say that it was fun to see a movie lay it on the table and say, “This is a movie about snakes on a plane. Are you with me?” Oh yes, we’re with you. You had us at ‘snakes,’ and you owned us at ‘plane.’
Just in time to ring in the New Year, the single-disc release of "Snakes on a Plane" features hours of special features including an audio commentary track with Samuel L. Jackson and director David Ellis, ten deleted scenes, four production featurettes, a gag reel, and a Cobra Starship music video. A great collection of extras for such an underappreciated film.