Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy; 2014; PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references; streaming via Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: A brief making-of featurette, "Suspense at 40,000 feet"
THREE SCREENINGS at my home theater and not a single person guessed the ending of this whodunit – including me.
Liam Neeson is the real deal. At 60-plus years, the former Irish boxer is a phenomenal action hero as we've seen in and "Taken 2," "Batman Begins" and "Star Wars: Episode 1." Now he's playing U.S. Air Marshal Bill Marks, whose personal life is a mess. Fighting alcoholism and still mourning his daughter's death from a decade earlier, he takes his first class seat on a jam-packed transatlantic flight from New York City to London. Cruising at 40,000 feet a couple hours in, after a secret smoke in the laboratory (warning, you'll go to jail mimicking his stunt), Marks encounters unexpected turbulence when a chain of text messages demands $150 million in 20 minutes. If he doesn't deliver, a passenger will be killed every 20 minutes. The money is to be wired into an off-shore account.
But who's the terrorist? It could be anyone onboard including Marks himself.
Prime suspects include Julianne Moore as Jen Summers, who demanded a window seat, right next to Marks. Then there's Norfolk native Nate Parker ("The Great Debaters") as tech savvy Zach White. Marks' partner in the sky is badly in debt, so Marshal Hammond could be the guy. We can't rule out the flight attendants: Michelle Dockery of "Downton Abbey" and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o of "12 Years a Slave," in a near-bit part with a handful of lines. We also have the stereotypical Muslim played by Omar Metwally, the only doctor onboard.
The film itself is a pleasurable popcorn flick on Blu-ray, pushing the edge-of-your-seat action with its energetic uncompressed soundtrack to all eight speakers. What's surprising, the extras are a complete letdown. The making-feature is filled with typical, sycophantic comments from the cast and crew. Moore reaffirms the obvious, "There's a lot surprises – and just when you think you've figured it out, it heads somewhere else."
Producer Andrew Rona and director Jaume Collet-Serra, who worked previously with Neeson on the thriller "Unknown" (2011), say they took great pains to be as authentic as possible, consulting with Transportation Security Administration officials and ex-Air Marshals to give the film authenticity.
It seems to have worked, since the final worldwide box-office totaled nearly $200 million.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer