An implausible but intense thrill ride with a more than competent cast.
As the film opens, it is Christmas Eve, and we get our introduction to our Bad Guy, Ryan Weaver (Ray Liotta, doing the kind of character he does best). He's a good-looking, charming-on-the-surface killer who has come to be known as the "Lonely Hearts Strangler" because his M.O. is apparently to target a single woman, romance her for a time, and then . . . well, they do call him "Strangler". After leaving a toy store with a cute stuffed animal and arriving at his new girlfriend (next intended victim's) place, he is arrested and kicked in the stomach by the detective (Hector Elizondo) who has been after him for years and even framed him by planting evidence (although it's okay in this case because HE DONE IT! Who cares what they had to do to get him?) In a clever bit of opening misdirection, we see shots of Bad Guy on his way to his latest target's place intercut with shots of our Heroine (waifish but not anorexic, blonde-haired-big-blue-eyed Lauren Holly) in her own place in such a way as to make us think that she is his new "girlfriend", when in fact she is not.
The two do meet, however, since our Heroine is a flight attendant assigned to the Christmas Eve flight on which Bad Guy is being transported to prison to await his execution. Along with Bad Guy is another con (Brendan Gleeson, in a Glee-ful performance) who's first words are his reply to our Heroine's question, "What would you like?", referring to drinks. His response? "I'd like to nail you, baby,", in the slimiest-sounding Cornpone accent you've ever heard. Is this guy really British?! Anyway, our charming con goes on to ask to be taken to the plane's bathroom, uses the soap-thingy as a weapon to kill the officer who is guarding him, and proceeds to make like Jeff Foxworthy if Foxy was a BAD-ASS Redneck. He ends up holding our Heroine hostage with a gun to her pretty blonde head, and who talks him into letting her go? None other than our Bad Guy, who at this point is still making like an unjustly accused and convicted Good Guy. In another dust-up, the other con and several others are shot. (The pilots have, in the midst of all this, been killed).
Our Heroine is told by our Bad Guy that the pilot hit his head but is all right and is going to land. He begins to win her sympathy, asking her if she believes in capital punishment, to which she answers "No". Our Heroine is sharp, however, and notices that the plane does not appear to be descending. She decides to go to the cockpit herself to check things out and finds the pilot and his co-pilot dead. She manages to make contact with the ground, however, and they patch her through to a pilot (Ben Cross, who brings his presence and accent to the role)who instructs her on how to communicate with the people on the ground and how to operate the plane(to LAND it, of course). Our Bad Guy, however, is determined that they will crash and, he hopes, take as many other people with them as possible. He shows his true colors, and it is at this point that it becomes almost impossible not to enjoy watching Mr. Liotta; he simply seems to be having so much FUN playing this particular wack-pot. As the plane tosses them to-and-fro (did I mention that they're headed into a six-on-a-scale-of-one-to-six thunderstorm?) our Heroine must defend herself after being coaxed out of the cockpit by our Bad Guy. While not trying to come across as the Xena of flight attendants, Ms. Holly is determined and tough mentally and also physically when forced to fight for her life. Yes, at one point, she uses sex - or at least the promise of sex - to get our Bad Guy to let his guard down for a moment, but, hey, it's one of the few "weapons" she has at her disposal, along with the fire extinguisher she clobbers him with shortly after the bogus come-on. (Why, under these circumstances, does our psycho-but-sharp Bad Guy believe for a MOMENT that the woman he's terrorizing would have sex with him, even to save herself and the few other people on board the plane he hasn't killed? Because it's a movie, children!) Anyway, after kicking a little Bad Guy butt and ultimately getting ahold of a Marshall's gun and killing him, our Heroine manages to land the plane. Merry Christmas! If you just want to shut down your higher brain functions and watch a good psycho-killer-chiller, and especially if you like it when said chiller supposedly takes place on Christmas, this is highly recommended for you. Cheers.