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Gerard Butler dominates in a high-octane action-thriller. A plane flies into a storm but suffers much worse from land-based threats. French filmmaker Jean-François Richet keeps the pedal to the metal. He lays out a simple premise and then plunges his characters into continuous mortal danger. It’s an out-of-the-frying-pan and into-the-fire situation. The momentary relief of surviving a terrifying crash landing evaporates when another crisis presents itself. Ruthless baddies have no mercy for innocents. Their ass-kicking pilot ensures that a seemingly doomed flight will reach its destination.

Captain Brodie Torrance (Butler) races to the gate in Singapore, anxious to see his teenage daughter (Haleigh Hekking) in Hawaii. A couple of things rattle Torrance as the passengers board. There’s bad weather along the flight path to Tokyo, and although he has misgivings, he’s given permission to fly above the storm. Also, law enforcement has apprehended a murderer who has been on the run for 15 years; Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter) is handcuffed in the back row, en route to extradition in America.

The first officer (Claro de los Reyes) has faith in Torrance’s abilities, which are immediately tested when turbulence rocks the plane seconds after takeoff; passengers whimper as he raises altitude; calm turns to terror when lightning hits; Bonnie (Daniella Pineda), the head flight attendant, screams for everyone to remain seated; some fools ignore her order.

The plane loses power; all electronic instruments have failed; over a vast ocean, it begins a rapid descent: They have 10 minutes before they slice through cloud cover and plummet to certain death. Torrance yells for them to prepare for a water landing just before — wait! Is that … ? A patch of green with a winding road miraculously appears through the blinding rain, and everyone braces for impact. But the remote island of Jolo isn’t a safe haven; an anti-government militia watches as a fresh batch of Western hostages crashes in the jungle.

You will never see “Plane” on your in-flight entertainment menu — not after its opening scene, which will scare the bejesus out of anyone who’s nervous about flying. My heart raced as oxygen masks dropped from overhead and the unbelted hit the ceiling like cracked eggs. (Slick visual effects, editing and the characters’ abject fear sell the precipitous decline.) Richet (of “Assault on Precinct 13,” “Blood Father”) cuts back and forth between cockpit and cabin calamity; at one point he even ventures into one of those airplane bathrooms where no one can stand upright. The sense of doom by that point has reached a fever pitch. This is still only Act 1.

There are many acts to go because revolting terrorists have seized a golden opportunity: These particular passengers are worth a fortune in ransom money. Torrance finds himself in quite a pickle: No one knows where they are, so he must get help without getting captured — no easy task with bloodthirsty militants swarming. And then there’s Gaspare: Is he friend or foe?

Butler gives Torrance believability in every circumstance; he’s fantastic flying the plane, calming terrified passengers and then strapping on an assault rifle to get down to business. He possesses emotional range with gravitas and towering physicality — important elements when accompanying wicked gunplay toward overall success. Butler remains a reliable action figurehead.

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