106 minutes / Now showing / Rating: 2.5/5
The story: Federal air marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) settles down to what seems like an ordinary transatlantic flight when he receives text messages telling him that unless he wires US$150 million into a foreign account, a passenger will be killed every 20 minutes. He becomes the main suspect after the account is found to be in his name.
Actor Liam Neeson is becoming known in these parts as the guy in plot-driven thrillers with airport-paperback titles - Taken (2008), its terrible sequel, Taken 2 (2012) and Unknown (2011).
And the resemblance does not stop there. Not only is this movie based on ideas found in holiday reading material, but the story is also set on board a jet flying over the Atlantic.
The story elements gather briskly and predictably. Marks (Neeson) has a drink problem, he loves his daughter (he carries her ribbon as a charm, for goodness sake), he does not get on well with his boss.
There is just enough detail to suggest that he might be crooked, or desperate enough to turn. He belongs to that elite squad of movie and television detectives who are just damaged enough to be interesting, but not so damaged as to affect his observational and cognitive skills.
Marks is actually a supercop, good with his hands, feet and brain. He bears a great deal of similarity to Dr Martin Harris, played by Neeson in Unknown, which, not so coincidentally, shares the same director as this movie.
Jaume Collet-Serra, who hails from Spain, has with this work marked himself as a specialist in mid-budget thrillers in which scenes leading up to the Big Mystery are set up and everything after is either a clue or a red herring.
As in Unknown, there is the element of the main character's existential crisis after his identity is in doubt.
Neeson once again plays a character who thinks he is the only sane person in a world gone mad when everyone begins to tell him he is not who he thinks he is, that he might be a hijacker.
Neeson does that mix of confused anger and crippling self-doubt very well, and it helps lubricate the squeaks that are inevitable in a plot with so many moving parts.
Director Collet-Serra (who also helmed the hit horror work Orphan, 2009) does not do anything new visually with the aircraft setting of the story, but he drives the pace with rapid music video-style editing.
A movie that takes big risks with its central mystery needs a commensurate pay-off at the climax.
When the reveal happens, rather than the soaring uplift one expects, the feeling is more of a distinctly deflationary descent.