Following the success of Pierre Morrel’s “Taken,” Liam Neeson, to the surprise of many, has cemented himself as a formidable action hero. What has followed since can only be described as a money-making ploy by Hollywood based on Neeson’s action-star status; a ploy which has seen positive results (“The A Team,” “The Grey”) as well as negative (“Taken 2,” “Battleship”), Neeson appears to only be as effective as an action hero if he has the right director. And with Jaume Collet-Serra (with whom he previously collaborated on the “Total Recall”-esque thriller “Unknown”), Neeson is back in superb form in “Non-Stop.” Note: this is a plane movie without snakes; go figure.
Welcome to the ‘Mile-Die’ Club
Neeson plays Bill Marks, an aged and weary Air Marshal who’s haunted by a troubled past and copes with it one flask of whisky at a time. On a commercial flight from New York to London, Marks begins receiving cryptic text messages from a mysterious sender threatening to kill one passenger every twenty minutes unless a ransom demand is met. Marks is skeptical at first, but when passengers begin dying one by one, he realizes the threats are very much real and that he only has so much time to stop them.
Still Better than “Snakes on a Plane”
Compared to Neeson and Jaume-Collet’s previous collaborative effort, “Non-Stop” is a more thrilling and darker film where Neeson is able to channel his Bryan Mills character from “Taken.” Bill Marks is a troubled character with a fraught past and Neeson portrays this side of him convincingly, he comes across as being both resolute in his profession but reserved in his personality. His performance overshadows that of his co-stars, who don’t bring much to the film other than serving the singular purpose of assisting, aggravating, or antagonizing him. Collet-Serra’s direction clearly favours Neeson above everyone else, with veteran Julianne Moore reduced to a character bordering on bumbling and intrusive. The film even features the potential of Lupita Nyong’o but doesn’t even come close to utilizing it. As awesome as Neeson is, his co-stars really make this film lose altitude.
The action and suspense, however, are tense and keep you guessing until the (disappointing) climactic revelation. The film feels claustrophobic at times, as most of the action takes place within the confines of the plane’s cabin, with one fight scene taking place entirely inside a lavatory. There’s an impressive tracking shot, reminiscent of “Gravity”, which follows Neeson’s fast-paced interrogation of the passengers throughout the plane and, as out-of-place as it feels, truly lends a level of cinematic quality to this otherwise by-the-numbers film. There are a few plot holes here and there and the climactic reveal of why the plane is being terrorized is nothing short of ridiculous and self-defeating.
This Flight Needs a Layover
The film also features on-screen text-message typography reminiscent of “Sherlock” and this, coupled with the tracking shot makes me wonder if Collet-Serra simply copied the flavours of the week as a way of ensuring the film’s popular success. Though this may not exactly be the case, it certainly feels that way to the educated viewer.
“Non-Stop” is an exciting and satisfying film if you’re a fan of Liam Neeson, action, or a combination of the two. After the disappointment of “Taken 2,” it’s good to see Neeson back in form. With a semi-unresolved plot and questionable acting on the part of Neeson’s supporting cast, the film never really soars above its potential once it takes off. However, the film has enough working in its favour to guarantee some thrills and, if you’re a fan of Liam Neeson, you’re sure to enjoy it.