Snakes on a Plane (2006)
By: Craig Villinger on February 2, 2007  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Roadshow (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DTS 6.1, English DD 2.0. English (FHI) Subtitles. 101 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: David R. Ellis
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Margulies, Nathan Phillips, Rachel Blanchard, Flex Alexander, Sunny Mabrey
Screenplay: John Heffernan, Sebastian Gutierrez
Music: Trevor Rabin
Tagline: Sit back. Relax. Enjoy the fright.
Country: USA
In case you missed it, Snakes on a Plane had a lot of pre-release hype on the internet. It was the sort of hype that had movie geeks all around the world – myself in particular – salivating in anticipation. From barely literate bed ridden bloggers to the most high-brow internet news sites – everyone was talking about Snakes on a Plane. Months before its release the film had generated more publicity than money could buy, and it became the film we had to see. Had to dammit! In the end it was all too much. No film could possibly live up to that sort of hype. People were bound to leave the cinemas in tears. Luckily though a few months have passed since then, and with the internet the way it is we've already forgotten about the hype and progressed to salivating over other, even cooler sounding movies, so we can now sit down to watch Snakes on Plane on DVD with an open mind and enjoy it (or hate it) for what it is without the words of a million key tappers ringing in our ears.

After witnessing a brutal murder committed by gangster Eddie Kim, surfer dude Sean Jones (Wolf Creek's Nathan Phillips) becomes a target for assassins and winds up in the protective custody of FBI agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson), who coerces him into boarding a plane bound for LA to testify against the ruthless crime lord. Sounds like a good plan in theory, but Kim is a man who won't let The Feds take him down without a fight, and so, in what has to be one of the most ingenious assassination plots ever, he loads the plane's cargo hold with venomous snakes which are released mid-flight and cause more than a few headaches as they slither and slide through the aircraft. Thus, as passengers and crew go absolutely fucking ape shit (wouldn't you?) and the snake bite related fatalities begin to accumulate, it's up to Agent Flynn to save the day and hopefully get the plane on the ground before reptile venom is coursing through everyone's veins!

Let's face it: Snakes on a Plane has a premise which can't be ignored, and could potentially lead to an amazing movie. It takes two of our greatest fears and throws them together to create a phobia cocktail which might scare the shit out of those who suffer from severe cases of aviatophobia and ophidiophobia, but will no doubt have the rest of us rubbing our hands together in gleeful anticipation, and for about 15 minutes when the snakes launch their first attack on the passengers, Snakes on a Plane is an amazing movie. Seriously, could you imagine how chaotic it would get if a bunch of snakes were actually set loose on a commercial airliner? It would be complete pandemonium, and this state is captured perfectly by the filmmakers as the characters run around screaming their heads off while the rampaging snakes sink their fangs into anyone and everyone with gay abandon. It's a brilliantly constructed sequence which can stand up with the greats of disaster film history, and is loaded with memorable snake bite gags including a snake dropping in on a couple as they prepare to enter the Mile High Club (breast biting is the highlight there), a poor gentleman to whom the phrase "trouser snake" takes on a whole new meaning, an "up the dress and out the cleavage before going into the eye socket" attack, and we even see a snake springing out of a barf bag as one air sick passenger prepares to hurl her lunch!

Once the main attack sequence is over however the snakes don't get a lot of screen time and the film becomes less of a "snakes biting people on the naughty bits" spectacular and more of a formulaic disaster picture. Sure, the snakes pop-up every now and then to fang a few victims, or to get slapped around or spear gunned by Sammy L.J., but for the most part, once the initial frenzy dies down, the attention shifts to the survivors and their attempts to deal with the problems before them, like "how do we land a plane without the assistance of qualified pilots?" Luckily the screenplay does feature some amusing dialogue and never takes itself too seriously, so even when the snakes aren't on screen things are still relatively entertaining. A well drawn cast of supporting characters - including a germophobic rapper and his aides, an uppity rich girl (Rachel Blanchard), the token mother with young child, and the calm and collected flight attendant who is making her last trip before moving on to a bigger and better life (Julianna Margulies) - also keeps us interested, and while some of the actors even manage to make an impression on the viewer as they jostle for position behind the leading players, the real star of this show (well, the non-reptilian star at least) is undoubtedly a chrome domed and fired up Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson delivers a great mix of macho histrionics and level headed calm in the face of death, and whether he is tending to his wounded colleagues, delivering a rousing speech to diffuse a potentially explosive situation, or taking on multiple scaly assailants armed with nothing more than an aerosol can and a cigarette lighter, he commands your attention and steals the spotlight whenever he is on screen.

My only real gripe with Snakes on a Plane – apart from a few less than realistic CGI snakes – was the final act. The frenetic pace slows down considerably as the finale draws near and the snakes are virtually nowhere to be seen. One last tussle with some sort of "boss snake" (how about the giant Python which devoured a small dog and a toffee-nosed British character in the space of a minute but was only on screen for about a second afterwards) would have brought it to a more satisfying conclusion than the one we got.
Video
You would expect nothing less than perfection from a new release blockbuster like this, and perfection is exactly what we get. Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with 16x9 enhancement, the transfer is pleasing to the eye at all times with the wide variety of snakes all looking bright and colourful.
Audio
Roadshow has everyone covered in the sound department, giving us the choice of Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 6.1, and stereo sound options. The 5.1 and DTS tracks are quite simply awesome, with every speaker getting a regular workout. The show stopping attack sequence is one of the many audio highlights, with the sounds of striking snakes coming from all corners of the room.
Extra Features
With the Region 4 DVD released a week before its Region 1 counterpart I feared we'd get stuck with a bare bones disc (anyone remember the original Freddy vs. Jason and TCM 03 releases from Roadshow?), but luckily the local release delivers the goods.

A busy commentary track by Director David R. Ellis, Samuel L. Jackson, Producer Craig Berenson, Associate Producer Tawny Ellis, VFX supervisor Erik Henry and 2nd Unit Director Freddie Hice kicks off the selection, and with so many participants there are no extended pauses between sentences, however some of the chatters - Ellis in particular - point out the obvious a lot of time. The jokes fly thick and fast though, and everyone seems to be having a great time watching the movie as they whoop, holler, and scoff down popcorn.

Pure Venom – The Making of Snakes on a Plane is the first of four documentaries and features interviews with various cast and crew members, with an emphasis on the special effects.

The second is Meet the Reptiles (13 minutes) which is not, as the title suggests, a collection of interviews with the snakes. Instead, it features interviews with snake handler Jules Sylvester and various cast/crew members who all talk about snakes and what it was like to work with them.

VFX Featurette is, not surprisingly, a visual effects featurette which clocks in at five minutes and features a bunch of people with advanced computer literacy chatting about the intricacies of the films computer generated effects.

The final doco - Snakes on a Blog - looks at the massive internet hype generated by the making of Snakes on a Plane and has interviews with screenwriter Sebastian Gutierrez along with a few webmasters and bloggers who rode the films wave of popularity to earn their 15 minutes of fame. We also get to see some of the hilarious photos and video clips that were made by fans in the lead up to Snakes on a Plane.

A Gag Reel containing four and half minutes of on-set stuff-ups and tomfoolery is also included, along with ten Deleted/Extended Scenes with optional commentary by the Ellis' and Craig Berenson, while promo fans might enjoy Snakes on a Plane's teaser trailer and two theatrical trailers, along with five TV spots (you'll also find an Easter Egg in the TV Spots sub-menu).

Rounding out a decent selection of extras is the 'Snakes on a Plane' music video by Cobra Starship that plays during the films closing credits, and a five minute music video making-of featurette where the band members explain how they are playing the role of the bad guys who smuggle the snakes onto the plane and also come up with some hilarious metaphors for the song's title. Whether or not they are actually taking the piss remains to be seen.
The Verdict
If you haven't absorbed too much hype already you'll discover a deliciously cheesy, well made Hollywood popcorn flick which delivers thrills, laughs, and a seemingly endless procession of mid-air catastrophes, and does so with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. If however you've been suckered in by the hype and are expecting this to be the most awesome entertainment experience of your entire life… well, you might feel a little deflated. The film itself is worth a three, but Roadshow's DVD presentation definitely bumps the overall package up to a four and earns Snakes on a Plane a solid recommendation.
Movie Score
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