Non-Stop reteams Liam Neeson with his Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra for another generic and mildly entertaining thriller about a man seeking to prove he is telling the truth. It’s also another movie where Liam Neeson holds a gun and plays the cool albeit distraught bad-ass we’ve grown accustomed to him being.
In this turn as a bad-ass in a tough situation, Liam Neeson plays Air Marshall Bill Marks, an alcoholic and depressed man who has clearly gone through some sort of downward spiral. Imagine Denzel Washington’s character from Flight meets Liam Neeson’s from Taken that would be Bill Marks’ character in a nutshell. After boarding a plane and going through his usual Marshall routine, an anonymous person text messages his closed network cell phone threatening to kill one person on the plane every 20 minutes unless $150 million dollars is transferred to an off-shore bank account which, to his surprise, happens to be under his name. To make matters worse a bomb is involved and everyone on the plane and the ground begins to suspect that he is, in fact, the terrorist who has hijacked the plane, not the one trying to save it.
Unfortunately, none of what I said in the plot synopsis above is a spoiler because it’s all in the theatrical trailer for the film, which is stupid because those are most of the “twists” in the film that keep the story moving along. The marketing for this movie should anger you slightly because had I watched this trailer within a month of seeing this film nothing would have been even remotely surprising for me.
Unlike most of the thrillers I’ve seen recently, Non-Stop is a methodical and nearly edge of your seat slow burning game of cat and mouse for a good 45-50 minutes rather than being an intense action ride the entire duration. While he thinks he is in control, Bill Marks has almost none and is nothing but a pawn in a difficult game of chess where he must make sacrifices because, as you know, the US doesn’t tend to negotiate with terrorists and giving into their demands. Using his passengers as both allies and suspects, Marks is able to slowly narrow the suspects even though it’s very obvious early on whom the mastermind might be.
The best attributes of the film have to be the pacing and the action choreography. The film is a 150 minutes but feels like a 90 minute thriller. The film is constantly moving forward at a significantly fast pace, keeping you engaged and interested in the Hitchcockian mystery that’s unfolding. As for the action choreography, there is a fight scene that takes place in a bathroom that’s just damn impressive and when you find out that it is a combination of 70+ edits it makes it even more impressive. All the fighting is close combat so the way they handle these sequences on a plane is pretty cool.
The film is well acted and stars some strong names, obviously Neeson but also 12 Years a Slave Oscar contender Lupita Nyong’o and Julianne Moore. The most surprising part about this movie is that I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve seen a movie with Julianne Moore in it and she doesn’t cry. Seriously, she doesn’t shed a tear and only gets mildly upset once. I think she’s a wonderful actor and while she certainly elevated a pretty basic supporting role, it just seemed like a wasted role for her and could have easily been replaced by any number of up and coming talented actresses, probably for a fraction of the cost too.
The downside to the film is that there could have been a little more heartbreak added to the climax. Oh, the ending is also very cliché and gets extremely sappy. It would have been a stronger film if the enemy had killed a few more passengers and if the ending weren’t so cheesy, one filled with a little less Hollywood glamour and filled with a bit more real life emotion, frustration, shock and a little anger being the key ones.
Overall, Non-Stop is a slightly underwhelming film for a Liam Neeson actioner. Yes, it’s entertaining and the mystery at 40,000 feet is suspenseful and fun to follow but the film spirals into generic territory as the stories layers get pulled back throughout the film. This is one of those movies that will be forgotten in two months but it’s a decent choice if you’ve got nothing else to watch.
Rating: Generic fun that continues Liam Neeson’s streak of bad-ass roles (6/10)