Liam Neeson continues his action bend by re-teaming with Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra (‘Unknown’). It’s a tighter action film, aided by the fact that its set in one location. However, this thriller always had potential to soar, but would also run the high risk of relying too heavily on auto pilot; so which would it be?
Bill Marks is a former cop turned (alcoholic) air marshal, and he doesn’t like flying, or at least the taking-off part. On a trans-Atlantic flight he receives text messages from an unknown source threatening to systematically kill off passengers unless Bill gets authorities to wire $150 million dollars to an off-shore account within a specific time frame.
For action film fans; If you’ve enjoyed Neeson’s work, pretty much ever since Taken landed, then you’ll appreciate this. It may be an action film, but it does have a ‘who-dunnit’, murder mystery element to it, relying a lot on building tension.
The Bottom Line
This is a film that’s admittedly easy to dismiss as just another action romp (with an uninspiring title), going through the same motions, but give it some attention and you’ll find it quite a decent distraction. The single setting (in the airplane) adds to the tension, limiting Marks’ options whilst generally, the film relies on clever twists and plays to keep the action moving.
Liam Neeson might be playing a retreaded character, and not just from his own stable of protagonists, but he does play it rather well, especially a man with visible weaknesses, questioning his own abilities. Often it’s the small things that distinguish the characters apart, and in this film, those elements are often mistakes and decisions spurned on by panic to make things a little more unpredictable.
There’s always a risk when playing a group of characters against one another in a small environment, but when it comes off, its usually quite entertaining – Twelve Angry men would be the epitome of this medium – as characters (and the director mind you) are taken through a variety of emotions as the blame/emphasis shifts from one to the other.
There’s a decent group of actors in the supporting cast, led by the ageless Julianne Moore, the continually rising talent of Scoot McNairy and recent Oscar winner Lupita Nyongo, with a plethora of familiar faces all around (many of whom you may have seen on TV).
I walked out of the cinema rather pleased at a surprisingly good action thriller, one that’s equally aided and sandbagged by its collective elements – an airplane hostage, Liam Neeson action film – because it often cleverly uses genre clichés and your own expectations to add further complications to the brooding-big-man Neeson moving around through the cramped spaces at 40 000 feet.
It’s not a trail blazer, but it is a good film that masks its shortcomings with great performances, film-making and some on-screen trickery.