Samuel L. Jackson plays an FBI agent transporting a witness in Snakes On A Plane.


Snakes On A Plane

Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies

Director: David R. Ellis

**** (out of five)

If you haven't already seen Snakes On A Plane, see it as soon as you can. Tonight. This afternoon. It’s the first movie of the year — possibly the first movie in several years, come to think of it — that demands to be watched in a packed, enthusiastic house.

Snakes On A Plane is an unapologetic, exuberant Bmovie, a throwback to the Times Square grindhouse experience of the 1970s, when low-budget American cinema was built on a simple concept and a splashy poster.

The concept — like the poster — is simplicity itself: There are snakes, and the snakes are on a plane. The execution is skillfully balanced between characters who take their situation very seriously, and filmmakers who do not. And then there is Samuel L. Jackson.

As a federal agent trying to protect a hapless murder witness from a mobster’s reptilian assault at 30,000 feet, Jackson is the key to what makes Snakes On A Plane so much damn fun: His unflappable cool in the face of an increasingly ludicrous situation is like a feature-length wink.

He’s also got backup, in the form of a supporting cast of classic disastermovie characters: Julianna Margulies as a flight attendant making that one last run before retiring; David Koechner as the swaggering, sexist pilot; Rachel Blanchard as a clueless, Chihuahua-toting personality; Flex Alexander as a germaphobic hip-hop star and Kenan Thompson as the bodyguard who’s smarter than his employer.

Director David R. Ellis, who orchestrated the joyful carnage of Final Destination 2, does similarly respectable work here, sprinkling the mayhem with plenty of icky effects, several very clever moments and one tremendously effective scare.

He also understands the importance of keeping his star front and centre, refusing to acknowledge that a movie in which snakes appear to mount a frontal assault via a beverage cart is anything less than the best thing ever. Try to imagine this same film with Bruce Willis or Ben Affleck, and it plummets to earth. Sam Jackson makes it soar.

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