Some movies don't deliver what you expect. Snakes on a Plane isn't one of those. What you see in this film's title is exactly what you get. But before South Pacific Air Flight 121 takes off, a modicum of setup is needed to explain how hundreds—perhaps thousands—of slithering, poisonous, aggressive reptiles end up loose on a 747 at 35,000 feet above the ocean.
Sean Jones is an easy-going surfer dude in Hawaii. But when he witnesses the murder of an attorney by cold-blooded mob boss Eddie Kim, he becomes a wanted man. Enter FBI agent Nelville Flynn, who thwarts a murder attempt on Sean's life and convinces him the only way to stay alive is to testify against Eddie—in Los Angeles. In a few shakes of a rattlesnake's tail, Sean finds himself on a jumbo jet aimed toward the mainland, with Flynn and fellow agent John Sanders close by to make sure nothing goes wrong. (Rrriiight.)
As Sean and his FBI handlers get comfortable, a veritable parade of caricatured characters take their seats. Most would have been equally at home on The Love Boat, Fantasy Island or in any of the '70s disaster flicks: A Paris Hilton-like socialite named Mercedes, complete with a bipolar Chihuahua named Mary Kate. An obsessive-compulsive hip-hop star dubbed Three G's, and his two ample henchmen. Two young boys flying sans parents. A single mom and her infant. An aroused couple who would have been better off booking a room than a flight. Newlyweds returning from their honeymoon. An obnoxious business tycoon. Etcetera.
At this point, you're practically dared to place your bets on who'll survive and who won't.
Once the plane is aloft, the movie wastes no time getting to the action. A detonator in the cargo hold unleashes enough snakes to send Indiana Jones into permanent apoplexy. Their purpose? To ensure Sean never testifies. The first victims meet their end in lavatories. But it's not long before complete pandemonium erupts, and its humans vs. snakes ... on a plane.
It's no shock, of course, that Flynn assumes the role of commander-in-chief of the airborne reptile repulsion. At his right hand is plucky flight attendant Claire. Several others risk their lives for the general good as well. An older flight attendant rescues an infant from the snakes and gets bitten in the process. A kick-boxing champion carries Mercedes on his back through scores of slithering serpents. A woman who grew up hiking in snake country uses olive oil to help suck venom out of wounds. As with many disaster films, desperate individuals eventually maximize their diverse skills to help others.
A rather touching, positive moment comes when a man puts his two young sons on the airplane to go see their mother. He emphasizes to the older brother his responsibility to protect the younger.
One scene depicts a woman praying and genuflecting.
The randy couple moves from making out in their seats to having sex in the lavatory. A thong is seen sticking out of her miniskirt as she walks, but by the time the scene concludes, I was fervently wishing that had been the extent of it. Several gratuitous shots clearly show her breasts and his bare torso as they try to make the most of their cramped space.
There's quite a bit more sexual content in the film, but it's less explicit. Fawning female fans of Three G's surround him at the airport. He "rewards" one of them by grabbing her (clothed) breast to sign his autograph. A flight attendant develops a crush on Sean and unfastens a few of her shirt buttons to attract his attention. (She's not the only woman to expose cleavage. Among them, several women in bikinis are shown on a beach.)
On the phone, Flynn asks an FBI co-worker if he's been looking at porn on the Internet. A snake crawling under the dress and between the legs of a sleeping woman causes her to moan and smile suggestively in her sleep. A pilot makes a crack about oral sex and masturbation.
A male flight attendant named Ken is very effeminate, and the film repeatedly uses innuendo to depict him as gay. At one point, he's obviously hitting on the kick-boxing champion. And when a man's backside is bitten, Ken enthusiastically offers to suck the poison out. He insists that he's got a girlfriend, but no one believes him. (Everyone is in shock when his girlfriend actually shows up at the film's conclusion.)
It's reported that 50 people are killed by the snakes. Of those attacks, we witness at least a dozen. Very few portions of the human anatomy are spared: eyes, ears, noses, backsides, necks, wrists, legs—if it's exposed, the snakes chomp down with bloody results.
The first two attacks are among the most salacious and gory. In the tradition of '80s horror movies, the couple having sex in the bathroom is the first to go. The man is bitten on his neck and the woman on her exposed breast. Next, a man going to the bathroom receives a bite where he'd least want it, and we watch him struggling and swearing, trying to pull the attached beastie off his groin. In the process, his head smashes a mirror, ensuring even more blood. Another man is crushed by a huge python, which then swallows his head while he's still alive.
As the film progresses, scenes show snakes slithering over disfigured corpses. Eventually, someone opens the lavatory door and the dead, naked couple inside tumbles out. To fend off the snakes, people use broken bottles, an axe, a spear gun (from the cargo hold), a lighter/hairspray combo and Flynn's taser-like electric shocker. Flynn also shoots an attacking snake off of Sean's chest, and another serpent meets an explosive end in a microwave. Blood flows when a little boy's snake bite is lanced.
Several exceedingly violent scenes aren't snake related. Eddie hits a defenseless lawyer three times with a baseball bat; we don't see the impact, but we hear them and see blood-splattered clothes. Another wince-inducer happens when a man is trampled by people fleeing the marauding reptiles; he ends up with a woman's high heel in his ear. A collapsing stairwell on the 747 kills at least two men, one who's impaled by a piece of metal and another whose throat is cut. Flynn shoots three thugs trying to kill Sean. A runaway drink cart pins a couple against the wall. A man falls through a sheet of glass.
Drug and Alcohol Content
The "mile high club" couple disables the smoke detector and smoke a joint before having sex. Xanax is mentioned as an antidote to flying phobias. A woman takes a swig from a alcohol flask.
It's debatable whether Hollywood has recently come up with a catchier title than Snakes on a Plane. It's so immediately descriptive, in fact, that Samuel L. Jackson says he signed up on the strength of the name alone. It also helped drive a massive pre-release Internet campaign to spice up what New Line Cinema had originally intended as a PG-13 thriller. When fans got wind of the studio's intention, their online complaints about the possibility of the film being "too tame" convinced execs to add the lavatory sex scene, more gore and a lot more language. The resulting buzz has made Snakes on a Plane one of the year's most talked about and anticipated films.
This despite the fact that everyone acknowledges it's just a cheesy B-movie.
For his part, Jackson was a strong advocate of making it R-rated—for the sake of "realism." He told Entertainment Weekly, "Nobody was cursing. Which is kind of unrealistic when you're in a plane with a bunch of f---ing snakes. ... They would tell me, 'We only have two [f-words], so we have to save them, and we have to make sure they're used just right, and they can't be used in a sexual connotation.' I was like, 'What?! Are you kidding me? So how many [s-words] do we have?' 'Uhh—three.' I hate working with those kind of restrictions."
Well, as it turned out, Jackson didn't have to work with those kind of restrictions, and the result is exactly as sadistically obscene as he wanted it to be. Not that he cares what I think. "[Film critics] don't need to watch this movie," he ranted. "They need to send some 13-year-old kid with f---ing pimples."