By Richard Pulfer

Although the airline thriller “Flightplan” hits theaters more than a month after the Wes Craven air-bound suspense film, “Red Eye,” there are numerous themes and situations within the two plots too similar to be coincidental. Lacking a famed director like Craven and boasting a solid direction, “Flightplan” both corrects and misses some of its counterpart’s flow.

Recently widowed Kyle (Jodie Foster) takes her extremely shy daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston) to New York after the vague death of her husband. An aerospace engineer, Kyle finds herself on board the very aircraft she designed: a luxurious three-floored airliner. Not long after, however, Julia disappears, and Kyle must negotiate through skeptical Air Marshal Carson (Peter Sarsgaard), the plane’s captain Rich (Sean Bean) and others in order to search for her missing daughter.

The cinematography and editing of “Flightplan” are excellent, and help boast the ambiguous elements of the story. The movie is apt in depicting Kyle as an unreliable narrator, one who is disoriented and emotionally distraught after the death of her husband.

By doing so, however, the audience soon becomes unable to identify with Kyle. Although Kyle’s distressing response at her daughter’s disappearance is initially understandable, she unfairly lashes out at everyone in her path, even as the crew does everything in their power to help her. Her alienation from the plane and passengers is a necessary detail, but the alienation from the sympathies of the audience is an unnecessary annoyance.

While “Red Eye” weaves tension through characterization into a powerful climax, “Flightplan” feeds off complication to tell its story. “Flightplan” really isn’t that suspenseful in execution. Every scene lands Kyle in a more precarious situation, until only her wit and determination are capable of reversing a situation vastly out of her control.

The specific forces at work against Kyle in “Flightplan” are also notoriously predictable, although the situation created to entangle Kyle is not. However, this situation is far too challenging, apparently even for the screenwriters, and several unexplained plot holes are left in its wake.

Though deftly directed and usually well-written, “Flightplan” lacks the subtle and simple execution of “Red Eye.” While the film might not deserve the praise of Craven’s “Red Eye,” it should be watched at least once for the alarming conclusions it raises on society’s reaction to emotion and grief.