The movie begins with Jodi Foster (Kyle) in a morgue. You don't see who is in the casket she is approaching. The director asks if she'd like a few minutes alone. Kyle asks if "she has to". The director informs her that a code is required for international flights (he means a keycode to lock the coffin, but this is explained later). While she is approaching the casket, the scene flashes back to Kyle and her husband, David (uncredited), walking home in Berlin. When they get home, she asks her husband to sit in the courtyard for just a minute,
even though there is snow on the ground. As David wipes the snow off the bench, birds scatter and Kyle looks up. Then, it flashes back to the morgue and we see David's body in the coffin and realize that the flashback was just imagination. The director says he was sorry but with the head trauma from the fall, they did the best they could do with making the body look presentable. The scene ends with Kyle looking at the untouched snow on the bench.
She walks upstairs to her daughter's room, who is asleep. Kyle looks out her daughter Julia's (Marlene Lawston) bedroom window and sees two men looking at her through the window across the courtyard. The camera looks away as Julia asks a question and when we look back, the men are gone. In the morning, Kyle and Julia are packed for the airport and walking down the stairs. Julia declares that she's scared to walk outside so Kyle hides her under her coat on the way to the cab. Julia is only six so this is plausible. Kyle looks up at the building to see a chunk taken out of a sculpture protruding from the building. The audience assumes this is what David hit on his way down.
At the airport Kyle is looking at the flight board, realizes her flight is delayed, and when she looks down, she doesn't see her daughter. Panicking, she looks around for a minute. Kyle looks over and finds Julia near a concession stand. She severely scolds her and tells her "How many times have I told you never to walk away from me in public!!" Julia says she's sorry and that she was just hungry.
The next scene we see them in the gate and they are looking at the plane. Julia asks a question about the plane and we realize that Kyle is a Propulsion Engineer for some airline and this is their latest plane. Kyle tells Julia that while she didn't make the whole plane, she did make the engines. The plane looks like it's supposed to resemble the new gargantuan Airbus 380. Especially because they are in Europe. Berlin, actually.
At that, we hear the announcement for families with small children to board. Kyle and Julia are the very first on board. They pass no flight attendants or anyone else while boarding. Shortly after, a family with 2 elementary age kids boards and they are rambunctious. Meanwhile, Julia has gotten on the floor under the seat in front of her to pick up a toy airplane so presumably this means the family that just got on doesn't see her. This will be important later.
More passengers get on and we meet a single guy who is a bit talkative, like he's trying to be cool, but why is he saying anything at all? He mentions the movie, talks to the flight attendant and hopes the headphones are loud enough to drown out the rambunctious kids he is sitting near.
This is an overseas flight so it will be long. Kyle and Julia watch through the window as David's casket is loaded on the plane. Julia breathes on the window and draws a heart in the condensation from her breath. Kyle mentions that they should go back and stretch out and sleep on a couple of empty rows in the back.
The next scene we see is Kyle waking up but finding no Julia. Her teddy bear is there though. She looks for her backpack and it is gone. The movie spends a considerable amount of time looking for Julia. Kyle is visibly upset. After getting a very catty response from the bitches that pass for flight attendants (they roll their eyes at her in this scene), she runs up to the flight deck and bangs on the door for the Captain (Sean Bean). Kyle is pushed against the locked door and told that she is becoming a danger to the passengers while the man has her wrist twisted behind her back. He asks if he can let go and Kyle says yes. We see now that this is the weird single guy asking about the movie earlier. He is an air marshal. His name is Gene Carson (Peter Sarsgaard).
Gene then gets the captain and Kyle has to convince him to search the whole plane, which he tells the crew to do. A lot more slow time passes while we see all the compartments being checked, two attendants (male and female) are fooling around in one area and are caught by Kyle who is now pissed. They don't find anything. The captain comes back and is now fed up with Kyle. Kyle tells them to search avionics in the nose of the plane since it wasn't searched properly. Stephanie (Kate Beahan), a flight attendant, performs the search and finds nothing. Meanwhile, Kyle thinks she recognizes an Arab man as one of the two looking at her from across the courtyard the night before. Other passengers jump on the anti-Arab bandwagon. The Arab produces a copy of his hotel bill to prove he was only there last night. A passenger yells out that a hotel bill doesn't prove anything. The Arab tells the passengers that he is innocent and that they'll have to find another Arab to persecute.
We learn that Julia's name isn't even on the passenger manifest. A stewardess, Stephanie claims she did the count herself and didn't see a little girl. Now no one believes Kyle. After this, we are informed that Julia not only didn't get on, but was in fact dead. One of the crew had called the morgue and found out that Julia also died with David. Kyle goes almost psychotic and we remember the flashbacks with David. The next scene is Kyle waking up in her seat and talking to a counselor who convinces her that she was only imagining Julia, just like she did David. Kyle is agreeing with this when she looks back at the
window in her seat. She remembers that Julia had breathed on the window and drew a heart when she saw her Dad's coffin being loaded. Kyle now breathes on the window and the heart appears.
She then asks to go to the bathroom since she was handcuffed to her seat. In the bathroom, she gets into the interior of the plan and goes back to the cargo hold. She checks a car, breaks the window, and then looks in the trunk, but no Julia. She then opens the coffin that has a keypad combination lock on it to find only David in there. We see Gene has caught up with her. He doesn't even allow her to close the coffin, but just escorts her back to her seat.
In the seat he makes a deal with her that he'll talk to the captain to be able to search the plane again when they land. Kyle is comfortable with that. Gene then calls over Stephanie, the flight attendant, to watch Kyle while he goes to talk to the captain. She shows some apprehension, but agrees finally.
The next scene shows Gene going to the interior of the plane through the galley elevator. He goes to the coffin, rips open the cover on the lid and pulls out C4 and a detonator. We now know that Gene is trying to hijack the plane. We also know why he left the coffin open. He needed Kyle to open it for him. He goes to the nose of the plane to plant the explosives and we see Julia sleeping, obviously drugged.
Gene goes to the captain and tells him that Kyle is actually a hijacker, she wants $50 million wired to an account and a plane standing by or she will blow up the plane. The captain agrees and tells him to go back to his seat. We then see Stephanie and Gene talking and realize she is in on the con. She's afraid Kyle knows what is really going on, but Gene convinces her that everything has gone according to plan. He even exults that Kyle has the rest of the passengers believing that the Arabs on board are hijackers. No one suspects the air marshal.
The plane lands, everyone gets off the plane. The captain says a few words to Kyle while a tense Gene looks on. Kyle realizes that the captain thinks she is a hijacker. Kyle realizes that Gene is actually the hijacker trying to set her up as the fall girl. Gene starts to get off the plane and she calls his bluff. They are alone on the top of the stairs going to the plane. Gene asks if she really wants to play and gets back on the plane. She manages to fight Gene, take his detonator, and run to the cockpit and lock the door. Gene shoots at her and hits the door then screams through the door that she wasn't special, they just needed a casket to get the bomb on the plane because security was hard to get through anymore. He tells her that David didn't fall off the roof, he was thrown off. Gene sadistically yells "He didn't fall or jump. He flew!" She gets in the crawl space above the cockpit and gets away while Gene thinks he hears her walking around above him elsewhere.
She drops down and sees Stephanie. Stephanie and Kyle fight. Stephanie decides she doesn't want to kill a little girl for $50 million so she gets off the plane while Gene is elsewhere looking for Kyle Gene watches Stephanie through the window get off the plane, but there is nothing he can do now. Gene catches up to Kyle, chases her back to where the bomb is and Kyle finds Julia. Gene arrives two minutes later, but Kyle has already gotten Julia and the detonator from Gene. She closes a hatch door and then blows up the nose of the plane with Gene in it. Gene dies.
Kyle is walking off the plane with Julia in her arms and is vindicated in the eyes of the passengers and the crew. As she is getting in a van, the Arab picks up Kyle's purse and hands it to her. The two exchange "I'm sorry" glances.
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