Bill Marks is a man living on the ragged edge. In fact, if anyone were to see him as he sits crouched in his car in a foggy airport parking lot, pathetically pouring Scotch into a paper coffee cup, it would be clear to them that this scruffy, shaking guy is in need of a break—before he breaks.
But he's not gonna to get one. 'Cause Bill has a flight he's gotta catch, and they can't take off without him.
Oh, don't worry, he's not a pilot. He's a federal air marshal. An air marshal who doesn't even like to fly. But that's not the problem, really. Life is Bill's problem. It just seems to be ganging up on him. Dragging him down into a pit of depression. It all started with his daughter … but he doesn't want to think about that.
Waiting for a British AquaAtlantic flight to London, Bill numbly scans the mulling passengers for any suspicious types. But everyone seems to be blending together these days. (The pretty woman with the scar who simply must have a window seat, the jerky guy who's glued to his phone, the little girl who's flying alone and scared.) Bill's seen them all before. Coming and going, going and coming. Same old, same old. Man, he needs a cigarette.
Once they get airborne and Bill's taken care of that cigarette urge―air marshals have their ways―the flight takes a turn he doesn't expect. He gets a text telling him that unless he arranges for $150 million to be deposited in a special account, something bad's gonna happen.
What!? Today? Now? Ugh.
Suddenly, Bill's years-old cop instincts take over. This can't be a joke can it? (The Muslim guy in row three with the bag, the sweaty businessman back in coach.) They couldn't be doing this, could they? The texts are coming in on a federally secured line. He's gotta think. Think! (The flirty woman who was kissing on that guy in the terminal, the nervous-looking fellow with the glasses.) Who could it be? Where is this mysterious texter? Unless he can sort it out, the continually flowing texts promise that someone on this flight will be taken … er, killed every 20 minutes.
For all of Bill's struggles and failings, when his back's against the fuselage, he feverishly tries to save the people onboard his flight. We learn of some of the anguish and loss in his life, and they make his heroic choices all the more poignant. He reaches out to help a young girl on a few occasions, literally snatching her from the jaws of death.
A passenger named Jen also steps into the breach, putting herself in danger to help the beleaguered marshal. Several other passengers make the right choice in the heat of a tense situation.
One of the flight's passengers is a Muslim, and a few other passengers eye him suspiciously because of his religious "look."
A young woman hugs and kisses her guy in the airport and then, later, the two are seen giggling and wriggling under a blanket onboard the plane. We see some ogling going on, and a joke about it. There's a stray line about hooking up. Low-cut blouses reveal cleavage, and pictures on a phone show more of it.
This film purposely leaves the mystery behind the flight's onboard violence hanging as long as possible. Even the protagonist, Bill, becomes a suspect for a time. As such, I'll leave out most of the names and genders here as I detail the explosive episodes:
A neck is snapped during a ruthless close-quarters battle in the plane's lavatory. One person is shot in the head, another in the shoulder. Two are poisoned. One is swallowed up by a fiery explosion. Bill manhandles a number of suspected passengers, slamming them into walls and seatbacks. Somebody's grabbed by a group of men who bash away with a fire extinguisher. A flight attendant is pistol-whipped. A nose is broken. A hand is slashed with a knife. A gunfight blows out a window at altitude.
The plane dives violently a few times, sending unsecured passengers and attendants smashing up into the ceiling and thumping to the floor. Folks are bruised, scraped and left bloodied. A food cart is sent tumbling, striking a passenger. During a crash-landing, the plane's side is rent, leaving a young girl dangling from the open hole.
Crude or Profane Language
One f-word and a half-dozen or more s-words join a handful of uses each of "h‑‑‑" and "a‑‑hole." Jesus' and God's names are misused a dozen times total (God's combined with "d‑‑n" six or so times). A crass slang reference to male genitalia ("d‑‑k") is used to describe someone.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Bill smokes and drinks before and during his flight (taping off a bathroom sensor so the smoke alarm won't sound). Jen also imbibes a mixed drink, a small airplane bottle of hard liquor and a large glass of Scotch. A passenger's briefcase contains smuggled cocaine.
Other Negative Elements
The air marshal goes rogue at one point, disregarding his superior's orders to pursue the few leads he has.
Ever since the 2008 pic Taken, actor Liam Neeson has displayed a "very particular set of skills" for films of this sort. He's got the action-thriller acting chops that can keep an audience glued to the screen as his protagonists squint, growl and manhandle their way to a suspenseful conclusion. And those skills continue to serve the actor pretty well here in this hero's tale of mystery, murder and terror at 40,000 feet.
Of course, as hero's tales of mystery, murder and terror are wont to do, there's more than just suspense and acting chops on this film's cinematic manifest. There's loose profanity that tumbles out of overhead bins. And there's a plethora of low-flying thumps and bumps that result in gunshot wounds, broken bones and one particularly vicious-looking snapped neck.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Drama, Mystery/Suspense, Action/Adventure
Liam Neeson as Bill Marks; Julianne Moore as Jen Summers; Michelle Dockery as Nancy; Corey Stoll as Austin Reilly; Nate Parker as Zack White; Scoot McNairy as Tom Bowen
Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown, Orphan, House of Wax)
February 28, 2014
Bob Hoose Bob Hoose