Liam Neeson has very particular set of skills. Skills he has acquired over a very long career. Skills that make him well suited for a movie like Non-Stop. If you mess with Liam Neeson, he will look for you, he will find you, and he will probably kill you. If you like the idea of Taken on a plane with a dash of Hitchcock-style mystery, then you’ll love Neeson’s latest, Non-Stop.
Non-Stop does everything it can to keep the plot moving as fast as the plane it’s in.
Liam Neeson’s second action movie with director Jaume Collet-Serra is a lot like his first. In 2011’s Unknown, his amnesiac character tries to solve a deadly mystery that challenges his very identity and sanity. There’s no amnesia in Non-Stop, but there is some déjà vu.
Set almost entirely on an airliner crossing the Alantic Ocean, Non-Stop puts Neeson in the role of Bill Marks, a burned out U.S. federal air marshal who not only hates flying, but views what he does as a glorified desk job. (Air marshals fly undercover as passengers on random flights to ensure the safety of everyone on board in the event of a crime or problem in-flight.) Marks can’t stand his life anymore and wants out; he smokes and drinks on and off the job, and he is an unhappy, lonely man.
On a routine flight from New York to London, things change. Marks gets a mysterious message on his secured government texting line demanding he deposit $150 million in a specific bank account or a passenger on the plane will die every 20 minutes.
Like a Ron Burgundy fight, things escalate quickly. Marks’ superiors believe he’s responsible for hijacking the plane because the bank account is in his name. With his back against the wall, he must prove his own innocence by finding the person responsible. Every passenger is a suspect; guns are drawn; there’s a lot of yelling; a great fight in a plane bathroom; and yes, a bomb.
The bathroom scene is especially intense. Airplane bathrooms are a claustrophobic experience for one person. Add 6-foot-4-inch Liam Neeson and you are asking for trouble, but somehow, through a series of quick cuts and changing angles, two grown men have a believable brawl in this confined space. Most scenes on the plane, which was created from front to back in a sound stage, feel authentic.
Non-Stop never elevates itself beyond B-Movie status, but it’s a damn fun B-Movie.
Marks is a familiar Neeson character – a capable hero with a troubled past – but the actor’s performance and presence, as usual, helps elevate what would be a much duller movie in his absence. An amazing supporting cast joins him, lead by Julianne Moore, who plays Marks’ seatmate Jen Summers. Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) is a flight attendant who knows Marks, and Scoot McNairy (Monsters, Argo) turns in a believable believable performance as a distraught passenger accused by an air marshal who must appear to be losing his mind.
Toward the end, the plot rises above the realm of believability. Collet-Serra manages to keep the mystery alive for most of the film, however, challenging us to figure out who did it with precision rarely seen in Hollywood films.
Everyone onboard the plane is a possible criminal mastermind, including Marks and Summers, both of whom we begin to doubt as the evidence piles on. There are plenty of suspects, including a suspiciously large number of white men wearing glasses. Why do white men with glasses seem like they’re up to something? Or maybe Non-Stop takes place in an alternate reality where contacts were never invented.
Collet-Serra has created a film that lives up to its name. Every minute of it is engaging, from opening to credits. While other action films waste time on long, predictable sequences, Non-Stop does everything it can to keep the plot moving as fast as the plane it’s in. Collet-Serra also toys around with many of the different racial and lifestyle stereotypes you sometimes see on movies with planes, but never succumbs to predictability.
Non-Stop’s script is engaging, but the payoff takes an extra swig of Coke and mouthful of popcorn to accept. Liam Neeson the real reason people will see this though, and he delivers his gruff action character flawlessly. Non-Stop never elevates itself beyond B-movie status, but it’s a damn fun B-movie. Sit back, enjoy, and don’t think too hard after the credits roll. You’ll have a good time.