DIRECTOR: Jaume Collet-Serra
CAST: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Lupita Nyong’o, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)
LIAM NEESON does his Taken thing on a plane, and for the most part he keeps your attention and you want to know what happens next.
Then it slips into the end sequence and kind of blows apart, but up until that point Neeson has a captive audience, pretty much like all the people on the plane.
Neeson plays air marshall Bill Marks, on a transatlantic flight to the US, who starts getting weird messages on his cellphone. Someone is threatening to kill people on the plane if he doesn’t arrange for the airline to transfer $150 million dollars into an offshore account.
He enlists the help of air hostess Nancy, with no surname (Dockery), and the woman sitting next to him in first class Jen Summers (Moore), and eventually a doctor Fahim Nasir (Omar Metwally), but things don’t exactly go how the training manual said it would.
A reviewer online earlier this year only half jokingly referred to the “Liam Neeson fighting things” sub-genre of films. Only half joking because this theme has really taken off. Neeson established himself as a serious actor in the 1990s to the noughties – remember Schindler’s List and Husbands and Wives, among others? And all the period pieces like Rob Roy making use of his Irish accent? Then Star Wars I painted him as the master Jedi and once Taken happened, suddenly he was in action hero territory.
Now we have him doing less acting and more beating up people, which is too bad because the solid premise here could have become something with such an usually nuanced actor in the lead.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra does the same thing here that he did with Orphan – he has a good premise and he sets up the atmosphere but doesn’t capitalise on the good actors at his disposal. He keeps up the pace, throwing twists and turns at the marshall but the plot does not hold up under the weight.
Neeson creates an interesting character in his melancholic, alcoholic air marshall who takes his duty seriously. He veers between sweetly understanding when persuading a little child who is flying on her own to board under her own steam, to scary law enforcement agent wrestling four guys in a confined space.
His sense of frustration at not being able to figure out what is going on translates into a growing sense of dread for the viewer, making for a tense, if rather bumpy ride.
It is entertaining as long as you buy into the red herrings because the eventual denouement just unwinds all the effort for the inevitable crash landing. It is Die Hard on a plane, minus the swearing. Don’t overthink it.
If you liked Taken or Killer Elite you will like this.