Let’s be honest, the very title “Snakes on a Plane” tells you all you need to know. And if you went into this 2006 thriller thinking it would be anything other than a wacky and absurd B-movie romp, you really have no one to blame but yourself. Now whether or not you find it entertaining is another question altogether, but don’t expect anything profound. This is silly big screen escapism through and through.
“Snakes on a Plane” gained an enthusiastic internet fanbase well before the movie even hit theaters. Story goes that David Dalessandro, a college administrator at the time, wrote the script which taps into two common fears – snakes and flying. After the title began circulating online a big web following developed giving rise to all sorts of fan fiction, parodies, and art.
The movie opens in Hawaii where a Red Bull chugging dirt biker named Sean (Nathan Phillips) witnesses a brutal murder at the hands of powerful crime boss Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson). With a contract on his head, Sean is rescued by FBI Agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) and convinced to fly back to Los Angeles to testify against Kim in federal court.
As a diversion a private government plane is used as a decoy while Agent Flynn and Sean take a commercial airliner, commandeering the first-class section much to the chagrin of the flight attendants and some passengers. But wouldn’t you know it, Eddie Kim has eyes everywhere and enacts a plan to sabotage their flight. Not by tampering with the mechanics or planting a bomb. No, instead he smuggles hundreds of deadly snakes into the cargo bay and rigs a pheromone to be unleashed once the plane hits 30,000 feet sending them into a lethal frenzy. I’m not making this up.
Before the flight takes off we get one of those tried-and-true survival movie sequences – a scene briefly introducing an array of characters (in this case passengers) many of whom will amount to nothing more than snake fodder. We get a rap mogul/germaphobe, a single mother and her baby, a low-rent Paris Hilton clone, a jerky businessman, and so on. They all are pretty paper-thin but there are a couple you can’t help but root for (or in some cases against).
Once the high altitude mayhem kicks in you can see the movie trying to one-up itself on how preposterous it can get. Believe or not that’s the film’s one big strength. I admit, I laughed quite a bit. We get ridiculous lines like “Well that’s good news, snakes on crack.” And numerous CGI snake kills that are almost as goofy as the dimwitted victims. I’m sure all of this sounds like a slam but it’s actually what keeps the movie in the air.
So as a thriller/comedy/horror/survival mashup “Snakes on a Plane” squeaks by simply because it unashamedly embraces its cheesiness and absurdity. Obviously that doesn’t make it a good movie, but it does make it entertaining. And sometimes that’s all you’re really looking for.
VERDICT – 3 STARS