Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Lupita Nyong’o
Written by: Ryan Engle, (also story) John W. Richardson and Chris Roach.
Running Time: 106 mins
Release date: 28th February 2014
How safe are our planes? After the events of 9/11, the security before and after we board a flight is stringent and yet there are those who feel that there should be more. Statements that are virtually ignored in the new action thriller starring Liam Neeson, set on a plane and having the big man running around with guns in a modern version of the disaster movies of the 70s Like most of Neeson’s recent films, its utter nonsense yet you can’t help but enjoy it, no matter how ludicrous it gets.
Bill Marks is a Federal Marshall who is having some personal battles. An alcoholic, still dealing with the death of his young daughter, he boards a plane heading to London. Once off the ground, Marks receives text messages from a passenger, saying that they will kill a fellow passenger every 20 minutes unless 150 million dollars aren’t deposited in an account. Taking the threat seriously, Marks has to slowly try to find whoever is threatening him, until it turns out that the account the money is supposed to be sent is Marks’s and he becomes the prime suspect. With no one helping him on the ground, the crew treating him with suspicion and the passengers worried about his actions, he only has a handful of people he can turn to, including a scared air hostess and a female passenger.
This is what I like to call, a Ronseal film. It does exactly what it says on the tin. The title sums it up, it is relentless. The pacing rips along and there isn’t a moment that is wasted with filler or explanation. Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who had worked previously with Neeson on the equally nonsensical Unknown, keeps it moving as if it’s life depended on it. If it stops, it will roll over and die. It also helps to be so fast-paced to help hide the obvious plot holes and glaring clichés.
This might sound like a negative but as it goes on and gets sillier, you are drawn even more into it. It is dumb, yes but it’s never boring. It does have unintentional laughs yet it helps with the pure fun of the piece. It has a plot that could have been ripped from the pages of a lesser known Agatha Christie and you do find yourself trying to guess who is behind the crime, which makes it even more enjoyable.
The cast aren’t pushed at all. Julianne Moore, who we know can deliver top quality, is virtually slumming it in a performance that doesn’t stretch her talents whatsoever but she seems to be enjoying herself. Michelle Dockery, more known for playing Lady Jane in Downton Abbey, gets her Hollywood debut as air hostess, Nancy and is perfectly fine. The oddest performance comes from Oscar nominated actress Lupita Nyong’o as another air hostess with the strangest London accent ever. Never heard the word “hand” said the way she does.
The film, however, relies on Neeson to keep everything afloat and he does with aplomb. Like Taken, this could have been a terrible mess but he has enough screen presence and charisma to make you just go along with the whole silliness. He’s not going to win awards for these films but he knows that these are throw-away, instantly forgettable rubbish and he doesn’t seem to care. If he doesn’t, neither should we?
The reasoning behind the air crimes is the only thing that sits uncomfortably in a film that never takes itself too seriously and is just pure escapism. Not as good as Taken but if you want to see something where your brain is left in baggage compartment and you can let it wash over you, then this hits the spot just fine. I know that some critics will be very snooty about this but I had fun and that is the important thing.