A film that built up an incredible amount of buzz (which, to the surprise of many, didn't translate into the kind of box office expected) on the internet before its release, "Snakes on a Plane" (also known to some fans as "SoaP") was born as a crazy idea and was turned into a crazy (if rather messy) little thriller. The film opens with Sean Jones (Nathan Phillips) witnessing an infamous mob boss named Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson) and his gang murder someone who was following Kim. They spot Jones, who rides off, and follow him. When it appears that Kim's men have found Jones, out pops agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) to save the witness. The movie never explains how Flynn could have any idea that Jones saw what he did, but then again, it's that kind of a movie.
Taking over first class with the help of an irritated flight crew (Julianna Margulies, Sunny Mabrey and Bruce James), Flynn, Jones and another agent (Mark Houghton) have first class to themselves while everyone else on the flight is forced into coach. Unable to take out the witness thanks to Flynn, Kim decides to dispatch the witness by using deadly snakes loaded into the cargo hold, which will be released at a certain point in the flight. That, and the snakes have been sprayed with pheromones to make them incredibly aggressive.
Once the snakes are released, all hell breaks loose on the flight as passengers are killed and the survivors try to flee to safety (even building a luggage barrier, which the snakes would likely be able to get through the cracks in-betw...oh wait, there I go thinking again about plot points in "Snakes" - bad me!) The snakes are all CGI and, while the CGI isn't particularly great, at least it works decently enough for this kind of movie.
A main issue that I had with the film is that there's really very little build-up to a lot of the attacks, as once the snakes really make their entrance, it's just attack attack attack. While the filmmakers have constructed a few good fright situations with the attacks, after a while it does get a bit repetitive. Some bad, clunky attempts at humor also take away from the tension, as well.
The film's other issue is the last-minute reshoots added R-rated material (including Jackson's famed speech towards the end) to take the movie from a PG-13 to an R. Note to Hollywood: stop PG-13ing situations that are R-rated. Snakes unleashed on a plane is an R-rated situation. People are going to curse in said situation and a PG-13 will seem ridiculous. The problem here is not the R-rated material, it's the fact that the R-rated material is so obvious that it feels like some R-rated material was shoehorned into the picture at the last minute.
The performances (Rachel Blanchard is enjoyable as a spoiled passenger, Jackson is good and Julianna Margulies does a very good job making a one-dimensional character into something more) are generally fine enough, although there are some low points (Phillips could probably not be any blander.) There's really very little character development, although that's not exactly expected in this kind of picture.
Overall, "Snakes on a Plane" delivers what it says: snakes on a plane. The film could have been a little better had it built the tension up a bit and improved the CGI, but it still makes for mindless entertainment that has its moments.
VIDEO: "Snakes on a Plane" is presented by New Line Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality is excellent throughout the show, as sharpness and detail remained consistently solid, even in the darker/dimly-lit scenes on the plane.
The presentation did show some minor edge enhancement and artifacting in a few scenes, but the film largely looked crisp and clean, with no other issues. Colors looked deep and rich, with nice saturation and no smearing or other concerns.
SOUND: "Snakes" is presented on DVD in Dolby Digital 5.1-EX and DTS 6.1-ES (Discrete). The film's soundtrack is wonderfully aggressive, with the surrounds constantly employed to deliver various airplane ambience and slithery sound effects. Audio quality was terrific, with punchy, dynamic effects and clear dialogue. Bass remained tight and deep throughout the show. Overall, this was definitely a fun, enveloping soundtrack. The DTS and Dolby presentations offered similar audio quality.
EXTRAS: "Pure Venom" is an 18-minute "making of" documentary that takes a look into the development of the idea and the production. We get some decent interviews and looks at the cast at work in the plane set. There is a fair amount of small talk here and praise, but some insights come through. "Snakes on a Blog" is a 10-minute piece that has the filmmakers chatting about the massive internet hype that accompanied the news of the film's heading into production. A short FX featurette offers 5 minutes of the FX artists discussing the step-by-step process of creating the snakes. Finally, "Meet the Reptiles" is a 12-minute look at the real snakes on-set.
A commentary from Director David Ellis, Actor Samuel L. Jackson, VFX Supervisor Eric Henry, Producer Craig Berenson, Associate Producer Tawny Ellis and 2nd Unit Director Freddie Hice. The commentary is a goofy affair, with the group cracking jokes about situations that occured during production and discussing their thoughts on how the final film turned out. There are some stretches of silence throughout the track, but we do get a few good insights into the technical side of production and some entertaining stories.
10 deleted scenes (w/optional commentary) are included. These scenes were really just small snippets that didn't offer much in terms of action or character development. Finally, we get TV spots, music video (w/making of) and three trailers for the film.
Final Thoughts: "Snakes on a Plane" offers some mindless popcorn entertainment that had potential to be better, but still offers some good moments. The DVD boasts enjoyable audio/video quality and a very nice selection of extras. Recommended for fans, but those who haven't taken this flight yet may want to rent first.
The Film B-