Snakes on a Plane (2006) is a movie of firsts. It marks the first movie driven to commercial success by the internet, so in respects, Snakes is a landmark film, paving the way for upcoming features fueled by the likes of YouTube.com and online trailer sites (note: the success of 300, for example). It is the fist movie I have been intrigued by solely because of the title. I have to admit that I approached this movie with a rare excitement, understanding that S.o.a.P. admits its tawdry style, so it can be viewed almost as homage to stylish thrillers by mimicking and paying tribute to them, rather than actually becoming one. I was mistaken. The result, another first: Snakes may wind up to be the first cult film with no following.
The movie is problematic from the start as the long "Lovely Day" title sequence creates a misleading mood for the film, especially when the following scene involves a human piñata. From here, the "plot" (in quotes because it is simply used as a device to get us to the plane faster) unfolds as Sean (Nathan Phillips), the sole witness to a murder, reluctantly joins FBI Agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson), who convinces him to testify against the brutal murderer Eddie Kim (Byron Lawson). No prosecuting witness has ever survived long enough to testify against Kim, so we can imagine how high the stakes are. To get to trail, Sean and Flynn must travel from Honolulu to Kim's hometown of L.A. on Pacific Air's Flight 121; a plane Kim has filled with the world most deadly vicious snakes in order to kill Sean.
The plane itself is filled with an array of personalities, each stereotypical and more of a caricature than a character. The black men are either rappers or tough guys, the white men are nerdy and uptight, the young women are sexual with no inhibitions, and the old women are helpless victims. There is a flamboyant steward, a few small children, a woman drinking whiskey from her metal flask (post 9-11 security?) and of course Samuel L. Jackson, whose presence alone allows the movie to be, I don't want to say worth watching, but most definitely entertaining. Nearly everyone on the plane is overtly rude and self-centered, able only to say exactly what is on their mind at the exact moment they are speaking (take the woman who was coarsely treated, as she says to her dog in response to her assailant, "Don't worry Mary-Kate, his hair plugs won't hurt you.") Because we don't care about the characters, we don't mind seeing them die at the jaws of fierce snakes. We are introduced to snake vision, akin to the sight of Predator (1987), as the snakes make their way from the cargo area to the bathrooms (and I thought Jackass 2 would be the only movie of 2006 where a man gets his penis bitten by a snake), and steadily make their way down aisles, through overhead compartments, into circuit breakers (a scene which was reminiscent of Jurassic Park (1993), still the go-to movie on reptiles gone wrong), and into the cockpit. The snakes are unprejudiced in their assault, gnashing at peoples eyes, necks, arms, backs, legs and tongues and although it appears as though the movie sounds chilling or gory, the obviously computer animated snakes do not lend themselves well to atmosphere created in the film, thus alleviating any terror or suspense.
The real excitement comes when Samuel L. Jackson's tyranny of evil is released on the snakes, killing them by whatever means possible. Some of the weapons include a taser gun, a hand gun, an ax, a fire extinguisher, a microwave, a blowtorch and yes, a harpoon (why am I not so worried about the whiskey flask anymore). And then, the infamous line: "Enough is enough! I have had it with these mother f_cking snakes on this mother f_cking plane!" Oh, Samuel L.