Snakes on a Plane (2006)

If you're contemplating a trip to the multiplex to see Snakes on a Plane, you pretty much know what you're signing up for. You will not be disappointed. Snakes on a Plane is chock-full of snakes. On a plane.

As the high-concept title suggests, Snakes on a Plane does not slither far from its B-movie roots, providing ample opportunities for serpents to have fangs-bared hissy fits, and put the bite, and the squeeze, on the particularly hapless passengers of one ill-fated redeye flight from Hawaii. As one would and should expect from a movie like this, passengers who are a pain in the asp are unlikely to get off the plane alive.

One of the great pleasures of Snakes on a Plane, aside from the chomping, hissing, slithering, wriggling snakes of course, is the presence of Samuel L. Jackson, who famously campaigned to keep the movie's awesome title after film execs tried to change it to the utterly uninspired and uninformative *Pacific Air 121*. Jackson won, and legions of fans got on board, turning the film into an internet phenom that spawned mini industries in unofficial t-shirts and bumperstickers. Web fans even managed to get a line of dialogue, too profane to be repeated in a family newspaper, inserted into the film, and convinced the film's producers to up the sex and gore quotient. With two snake attacks occurring in jetliner bathrooms, and the easy eloquence of Mr. Jackson, the Olivier of %$#@!, Snakes on a Plane handily earns its R rating.

Once you know there are snakes on a plane, it doesn't much matter how they got there, but scribes John Heffernan and Sebastian Gutierrez put in the effort to create a modestly plausible explanation. A surfer dude named Sean (Nathan Phillips) witnesses a particularly brutal murder committed by ultra evil gang boss Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson). FBI agent Neville Flynn (Jackson), saves Sean's hash and sneaks him on a redeye flight from Hawaii, filled with unaccompanied children, a mother with a baby, honeymooners, a chihuahua, a baby and dog-hating businessman, and a germ-phobic rapper and his entourage, as well as not one but *two* flight attendants on the verge of retirement. Kim's henchmen fill the plane's cargo hold with deadly snakes and spray pheromones on flower leis to get the serpents riled up. Havoc ensues. Panic ensues. Agent Flynn is required to kick some asp and, inevitably, help fly the plane.

Director David R. Ellis (Cellular) gooses the film with snake-vision-cam, extreme close-ups, fast edits, salacious snake bites, and hundreds upon hundreds of tetchy snakes (some rubber, some CGI, and some the real McCoy). The action is fast-paced and to the point. The snakes are after the passengers. The passengers are scared, desperate and disgruntled. Some will act heroically, others will be jerks. The movie is alternately hilarious and nerve-jangling, and for one brief moment, it was even quite emotionally moving (don't worry -- it was a very brief moment).

Although Snakes on a Plane is a direct descendant of disaster flicks like Airport, and its comedic spawn Airplane!, I couldn't help but be reminded of United 93 while watching Snakes on a Plane, because, despite the obvious differences between a finely-crafted semi-tongue-in-cheek movie about snakes on a plane and a very serious, very arty movie that reenacts the actual hijacking of an actual plane, there are some striking similarities between the two movies. Snakes on a plane and suicidal hijackers on a plane are similarly scary, and while the latter are not likely to bite a guy on his, er, little friend, the human emotions involved, and the potential consequences, are pretty much the same. Now, that's about as timely and politically relevant as Snakes on a Plane can possibly get (aside from a reference to a particularly venomous Middle Eastern snake) because, although it would be quite a serious matter if *your* plane were full of an international assortment of irate snakes, it is somewhat harder to take seriously the idea of slithering serpents bringing down a jumbo jet. 

That notwithstanding, the passengers of Pacific Air 121 have to wrest control of their flight from a bunch of angry snakes. They have the unflappable, decidedly not ophidiophobic Agent Flynn, a no-nonsense representative of our government (although he is more "my man!" than The Man), which gives them a distinct advantage over anyone on a Samuel L. Jackson-free airplane when it comes to fighting terror in the skies. And if there's one other thing you've gotta know going into a movie called Snakes on a Plane, it's that in the Snakes vs. Sam Jackson smackdown, my man in the Kangol hat is gonna prevail.