Genre: Action, Mystery, Thriller
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy
Credit where credit’s due, Liam Neeson’s career rebranding as an action hero is quite an impressive achievement. Having developed his particular set of skills over two Taken films (one good… one not so good) and the mind-bogglingly monotonous Unknown, Neeson has now perfected an acting range so uniquely limited that the reins of straight-to-DVD action king will surely be his once the likes of Segal retire. Here we find him reteaming with Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra and taking to the skies for a Hitchcock-lite thriller
Neeson plays grizzled air marshal Bill Marks, haunted by a troubled past involving his daughter (naturally), who finds himself on a transatlantic flight littered with an inexhaustible amount of potentially suspicious stock characters. Worse still, halfway across the Atlantic one of them begins anonymously texting him, threatening to kill someone on the plane every 20 minutes unless he is paid a $150 million ransom. With time running out, Marks sets about looking for the killer in order to find and kill them.
Whereas in Taken when Neeson crossed Paris on a relentless whirlwind of revenge, here he’s consigned to a single-level flight deck, meaning the furthest place he can run in pursuit of his killer is economy class. Limited space doesn’t necessarily mean limited excitement, look at Hitchcock’s Rope, but it does mean you have to be craftier with how you build your thrills. Unfortunately, it appears that Collet-Serra didn’t get that memo, replacing Neeson’s usual blend of fast chases and furious violence with… SMS messaging. It’s bad enough that the flight is exclusively flown by stereotypes, but when the most exciting thing to happen for the first half hour is Neeson hurriedly trying to correct a typo, you know you’re in for a rough ride.
Neeson tries his best, flexing his singular facial expression and persistently gruff vocal chords as often as possible in order to show how frustrated his character is becoming. Julianne Moore brings a bit of (business) class to proceedings, but any achievements made are immediately hampered by a supporting cast that includes Scott McNairy as an exaggerated loon and Michelle Dockery proving that she’s only capable of that same nonplussed facial expression she’s been honing since the first episode of Downton Abbey.
So witless and joyless is the script, that the further Neeson investigates – a process that pretty much involves stomping up and down the plane, shouting at anyone who tries to get in his way and occasionally taking timeout to sit in the toilet and stare whimsically off-camera while smoking – the more desensitized you become with everything that’s happening. Wes Craven proved with Red Eye that you can mix thrills with fun, but Collet-Serra can barely muster enough energy to make you sit up in your seat when the twist finally reveals itself.
Said twist is truly the icing on the cake, with method and reasoning that is beyond ridiculous and faintly offensive. A sudden boost of CGI may briefly stir you from your comatose state, much like when a flight you’re on comes in to land. In fact, the whole thing ignites feelings similar to those one has on a flight; it’s dull, tedious, feels much longer than it actually is and the entertainment’s crap.