You plainly wear your exhaustion on your sleeve as a threadbare Air Marshall that has flown too many miles and nips a drink too often for his own good. Bill Marks, (handled impeccably by Liam Neeson,) is the kind of guy it’s not hard to relate to or like – and that is a testament to Liam’s on screen believability. As he braces for another trans-Atlantic flight, he doesn’t yet know he is in for the ride of his life.
Once in the air it doesn’t take long for this taut thriller to get rolling. As the flight cruises over the ocean he receives an unauthorized message over his work mobile unit that informs him that unless he wires $150 million to an offshore account the culprit will start killing one passenger every 20 minutes. From here, it’s game on! When he consults with the other Marshall on board the shocks and surprises begin. When the first couple of deaths seemingly come at Bills hands the diabolical nature of the villain in this story is ramped up to eleven!
As Marshall Bill continues to unravel the scenario to find the perpetrator, the rest of the passengers become involved and the world finds out about the on board situation. However, with passengers feeding the media, it quickly appears that Bill is the hijacker and is painted in the news as a man who has lost his mind. When his earthbound bosses find out the account the hijacker is using for a wire drop is in Bill’s name, his fate is sealed!
Along the way the skilled director Jaume Collet-Serra places people in and out of Bill’s confidence. It is a masterstroke as his paranoia escalates and we the viewers are kept off balance from knowing and only remotely guessing at the culprit. Everyone is suspect, even the crew that he knows personally and also the steadfast supporter Jen Summers (Julianne Moore,) who sits beside him on the plane and helps him along the way.
It has been a long time since a film has both made me think while giving blasts of super intense action along the way. This delivers it all in spades. There is one scene in an airplane bathroom that sets a benchmark for close-in fighting like nothing I have seen before. This is just one of the edge of your seat thrills the film provides. When you tip your hand and play out your resolution in front of my eyes it is simultaneously strange yet ironically believable.
When the plane finally touches down, I sigh in relief and realize I have seen the first film surprise of 2014, and I know immediately we will spend more time together.