It wasn’t screened for critics but unlike other films that have been hidden before their release, Snakes on a Plane is more amusing and thrilling than I expected. Reports are coming out now that it has failed to live up to all the Internet hype but a lot of the box office hopes for it did seem a tad optimistic. Plus, its worth remembering that a lot of the buzz about this film was that it was going to be so bad it was good, which would possibly point to a slow burning DVD success rather than an all out bonanza.
If you haven’t seen it yet then you might be taken aback by the intensity of the snake action, the amusing supporting characters and the pleasantly brisk pace of it all. Going in I was expecting a much campier and self conscious affair but it plays like a fairly efficient thriller – albeit with a ridiculous premise. For those unfamiliar with the plot Samuel L Jackson plays a federal agent who has to escort a witness to a mob killing from Hawaii to LA. The only problem is that a corrupt mob boss has paid off an airport worker to plant a time-released crate of deadly snakes on board their plane. When reptiles crawl out, all hell breaks loose and Jackson has to protect his witness as well as survive the havoc on board the aircraft.
No-one should be under any illusions that Snakes on a Plane is going to be a cult success like Donnie Darko or Napoleon Dynamite. Although the bizarre fandom that has grown up around the film reflects how the relationship between audiences and studios is changing, it hasn’t made the film a masterpiece. That said if you have been following its progress over the last few months then you will certainly find something to enjoy here. The drama of the snakes once they are unleashed is effective and the claustrophobic atmosphere is maintained well for most of the film. I get the feeling that some of the violence and gore were ramped up with reshoots and instead of the comedy thriller people director David R Ellis has delivered something closer to a horror.
Samuel L Jackson effortlessly plays his usual cool persona but the real scene stealing performance (and some of the best lines) comes from Kenan Thompson as a passenger with some hidden skills. Other than that the rest of the cast are mostly just perfunctory or ( in the case of Bobby Cannavale) are just given too little to do. But for the most part Snakes does have a lot of low rent charm. The lack of a huge budget has actually helped it in many ways and there is a refreshing simplicity in knowing (to some extent) what you’re going to get from it. Its not the cult film it might have been but in a summer full of bloated big budget dreck like Pirates 2 and The Da Vinci Code it makes a welcome change.
> The screenwriter who inadvertendly helped kickstart the Snakes on a Plane phenomenon
> Reviews of Snakes on a Plane at Metacritic
> Box Office Mojo on Snakes on a Plane
> Sam Leith of The Telegraph on the hype surrounding the film