Liam Neeson is Bill Marks, a federal air marshal who drinks scotch before a trans-Atlantic flight, asks a flight attendant for a gin and tonic, and lights up a forbidden cigarette in the lavatory.
But he might be the only hope for the flight once he begins receiving text messages from an unknown passenger threatening to kill someone onboard every 20 minutes unless $150 million is deposited in a numbered account.
The plane is midway across the ocean on its way from New York to London, so the pilot (Linus Roache) can't just put the aircraft down. He's willing to defer to Bill until the marshal comes under suspicion as the source of the messages.
Bill refuses to relinquish authority, the threats continue and bodies pile up. No one is safe from suspicion -- except maybe the frightened little girl traveling alone to see her dad -- including a chatty seat mate (Julianne Moore) and the lead flight attendant (Michelle Dockery).
Mr. Neeson's newfound fame as an action star is on full display here. He looks like a guy who could fight off lesser mortals hanging onto his arms or back, and Bill engenders sympathy despite lapses in judgment.
Although the story keeps the audience guessing until the instigator is unmasked, the reasoning is then delivered with a compressed bit of speechifying. It's not a great movie, by any measure, but it is engrossing and an echo of such 1970s hits such as "The Poseidon Adventure."
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality, and drug references.
Extras include "Suspense at 40,000 Feet" behind-the-scenes featurette. Blu-ray adds a behind-the-scenes featurette on shooting in a plane.
'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’
"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" introduces the title character (played by Chris Pine) on the campus of the London School of Economics in 2001. He is napping on a bench when he awakens and follows students rushing into a nearby building to stare at a television showing smoke billowing from the World Trade Center.
Ryan enlists in the Marines and lands in Afghanistan, where he is nearly killed in a helicopter strike. He saves two of his men, and severely injured with shattered vertebrae and burns is sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
There, he encounters two people who will change his life: Cathy (Keira Knightley), a budding eye surgeon, and Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), a mysterious man who will recruit Ryan for the CIA so he can suss out funding for terrorist groups.
His cover is working as a compliance officer on Wall Street, and it's some financial funny business that sends Ryan to Moscow, where he meets enemies who want to kill him.
Ryan suspects a plot that could bring the United States to its knees, and it's up to him to stop it. Along the way, he has to keep himself and his fiancee, Cathy, alive and safe in this reboot from director Kenneth Branagh, who also appears on screen as a wily Russian with a weakness for vodka, vanity and women.
"Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," based on Tom Clancy's characters, manages to acknowledge the importance of technology today but doesn't forget audiences want action scenes.
Mr. Pine looks at home racing through the streets or scrolling through computer files, and Ms. Knightley is a refreshing choice for a woman who has an actual profession other than "girlfriend who looks like a model."
The movie is solid, smart and welcome, just like this Jack Ryan.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and intense action, and brief strong language. Extras include commentary, deleted and extended scenes, and four featurettes, two of which focus on the Ryan character.
Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey turn in flawless performances as a pair of detectives looking into a murder case in the Louisiana bayou country that has all the elements of being a cult killing. Their investigation not only uncovers a deep, dark secret but also reveals the hidden sides of both men.
The story's told in flashbacks as Martin Hart (Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (McConaughey) talk about the case that unfolded in the mid-1990s. It's through their recounting of the case that it becomes clear that these former partners might seem to be very different but have been drawn together by this gruesome case.
The eight-episode season that aired on HBO also features superb writing by series creator Nic Pizzolatto and an often haunting score from Academy Award-winning composer T Bone Burnett. The DVD set includes information about the development of the series, the importance of the music and never-before-seen footage from the series.
Look for this series to be a big winner at future awards ceremonies.
-- Rick Bentley, Fresno Bee