There’s two types of people when it comes to this film. The ones who know that it’s an internet hyped, Samuel L Jackson fuelled work of ludicrous genius. And the ones who have to ask what it’s about, despite the fact that to have a more self-explanatory title would involve showing someone the script and using a big fat marker to highlight the key plot points. Of which there is one. There are snakes. And they’re on a plane. It really isn’t that difficult to understand.
To pull off a film with this preposterous a concept is not as easy as it sounds. This could’ve been another Anaconda. Beyond ridiculous and into waste of money territory. But with more hype than the Blair Witch Project and support from a loud, bald bloke who swears (that’ll be Jackson) Snakes transcended B-Movie pap into an event picture. People were excited about it. And I was one of them.
What’s not to get excited about? There’s Sammy J, of course, who I could happily listen to while he shouts out the contents of the Daily Mail (and that’s saying something). He’s just ace. True, he may have been typecast now as the shouty cool guy. But he does it so well. The most celebrated line, “I’m tired of these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane,” is indeed pure brilliance, but Snakes offers so much more, and not just from Jackson. There’s “get this fucking snake off my ass!” and the most amusing, if not cringe-worthy “get off my dick!” from a man to a snake, after it emerges from the toilet.
Of course, for some people, a film needs more premise than just snakes on a plane. So the film starts with an explanation (happy now?) It’s an outlandish plot to off a key witness, with Sammy J the FBI agent brought in to chaperone said witness back to LA on a plane. Can you guess the bad guy’s idea? Stick a crate load of poisonous snakes in the cargo hold, add pheromones to make them crazy (as Sam explains it: “Snakes on crack”) and release. And it’s the release you’re waiting for. After being introduced to a host of semi-stereotypes, you’re just waiting for those big worms to come creeping out.
It’s here that Snakes really pulls it off. You could’ve had two hours of bad actors wrestling with plastic snakes, which would’ve been hilarious but possibly tiresome. And though Snakes has purposeful comedy moments (aforementioned toilet attack, plus unnecessary sex scene with resulting nipple attack) there’s also actual tension. As the release of oxygen masks drops snakes all over the passengers, there’s something quite disturbing about watching people battling to escape while snakes strike from all sides. It’s chaotic, well directed, and cleverly mixes the fun ‘ooo’ moments, with the wincing ‘urgh’ (some nice impaling added in here and there, including a fantastic stiletto in the ear.)
Snakes on a Plane is pure thriller fun. My main problem with thrillers is their predictable characters and preposterous action scenes (not much left when you take those out, actually…) But because Snakes knows how silly it is, then the preposterous is replaced with enjoyment, with some unexpected jumps in-between. You could probably find a lot to dislike in this film if you’ve had your sense of humour wiped clean and replaced with an old flannel, but for the rest of the human race this is a fun, thrilling summer blockbuster. It’s not going to change your life, make you think, or reveal anything new about the human psyche. But it’s snakes on a plane. And it’s a CF0, with an extra point for pulling it off so well, making a motherfucking CF1.