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Stars: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Corey Stoll, Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy, Linus Roache, Omar Metwally, Anson Mount, Shea Whigham, Lupita Nyong'o

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Smoking at the airport. Head phones on the planes. Mobiles everywhere. And how did all those guns get through customs? What rules is this airline playing by? Unfortunately, it turns out it's a hijacker's rules, in this decent, serviceable mid-air thriller, as burnt-out federal marshal Bill Marks (Neeson), an alcoholic who has lost his daughter, wife and job with the NYPD, starts getting mobile messages asking for $150 million. The threat: 'In 20 minutes I'm going to kill someone on this plane.'

Bill finds allies in the chief flight attendant (Downton's Dockery in a competent Hollywood debut) and the flaky woman (Moore) in the next seat, but the bottom falls out of his credibility when it's revealed that the 150 million is to go into his own account.

Even when a fellow marshal (Mount) is unmasked as a cocaine smuggler and co-conspirator, Marks ploughs on, targeted and framed by the hijacker(s), deserted by his bosses and feared by the passengers.

Suspicion falls on a schoolteacher (McNairy), but he turns out to have been paid $100 at the airport to play a prank on the marshal. Deaths start piling up, including that of another suspect.

It's all pretty far-fetched (especially the means of 'execution') but addicts of the genre will be gripping the arms of their chairs and fastening their seat-belts, as director Collet-Serra keeps the tension pretty tight and his audience guessing as he hurtles to an excitingly-staged action climax. And he has a stalwart ally in his star: few people portray determination and desperation any better.

David Quinlan

USA/Canada 2014. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Technicolor.
105 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 1, Swearing 1.

Review date: 22 Feb 2014