At first glance, Non-Stop seems to be just another Liam Neeson centric action thriller that is trying to reprise the surprise success that Taken had back in 2008. Nothing special here, move along. But wait…it’s actually pretty thrilling? AND keeps you guessing the bad guy until the very last second? I was surprised too, folks. It seems to be the pretty generic story of “Cop with a troubled past that has to redeem himself by becoming a hero”. But what results is a seat-gripping thriller/mystery that, if you try to suspend your disbelief until after the credits start rolling, will take you for an intense ride that will keep you thoroughly entertained the whole time.
Liam Neeson plays federal air marshal Bill Marks who from the very beginning makes us aware of his troubles. An alcoholic who was fired from his job at the NYPD after a family tragedy, he is a little rough around the edges. While on a flight from New York to London, Marks gets a text requesting $150 million dollars or else somebody is going to die…every 20 minutes. What results is a very high stakes who-dun-it mystery in which Marks must find out who exactly he can trust before it’s too late.
If so far you think this movie just sounds like two hours of Liam Neeson being…well…Liam Neeson, then you would be correct. We have all seen this role from him and there is nothing new there. At least he does it well. But surprisingly, Non-Stop is crafted in such a way that you don’t really know what’s going to happen next…and that’s what makes it so intense. Plot twist after plot twist, we feel like we are discovering new information right alongside Marks. Be prepared to guess who the “bad guy” is about 20 times. Surprisingly, director Jaume Collet-Serra does a decent job of putting together some really intense moments which will have your eyes glued to the screen in utter anticipation of what will happen next. The action sequences are also pretty well done but I still refuse to believe that there is ever room for more than one person in an airplane bathroom. This movie is a whole lot of fun, if you let it be. My advice for anyone seeing this movie is to just let yourself get into it by giving yourself over to the Neeson badassery and don’t take the silliness of the situations (because it does get pretty silly) so seriously.
As much fun as this movie is, it is a terrible shame that there was so much wasted acting ability among the cast. Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o only had about 5 lines and really just serves as a “background character”. Julianne Moore, although an entertaining side character, was just that. A side character. Michelle Dockery who has also affirmed herself as a serious actress in Downton Abbey is the “main” flight attendant and is also underutilized. The only character to get any depth at all is, you guessed it, Bill Marks. I really wish the writers had spread the love a little bit. I mean, if you’re going to cast some really talented actresses, you better use them! For the most part, they do what they can with what their given. Julianne Moore’s character serves as the one person who Bill trusts which comes off as just plain naïve since the two only just met at the beginning of the flight, but like I said, they do the best they can with what their given.
Non-Stop is a movie that totally relies on suspension of disbelief. Without it, plot hole after plot hole will appear. Personally, it wasn’t hard for me to do just that and that is ultimately what makes the movie enjoyable. The final reveal of the movie is…satisfying enough. Don’t worry; no spoilers here. But I will voice my slight discontent with the villain’s “motives”. It seemed a little too bizarre even after letting the unrealism of all of the events that happened prior glide past me. The reveal is shocking enough, if not a tad frustrating, but it isn’t a total letdown. It get the job done, but definitely could have been done better.
This movie isn’t your typical plane hijacking movie. It’s quite fast paced and the “mystery” of the whole plot is executed well. You’ll constantly be guessing who the terrorist is. Several twists and turns will have you entertained and keep your attention. Unfortunately, Non-Stop also suffers from several tropes including the character of Bill Marks who is a giant Liam Neeson cliché in himself. I won’t spoil the other clichés but try not to roll your eyes too hard and just go with it. Why not, right? My biggest gripe with the film was the total under use of several great actresses. They definitely had the potential to add something a little more to this film. That’s what you get when the script is constructed by three rookie writers but at least it was a lot better than I thought it would be. Collet-Serra is known for previous works such as Orphan and Unknown and does a good job of pacing the movie and keeping it interesting. All in all, Non-Stop isn’t the total crash and burn you would expect it to be. If not a little rocky in some areas, it does a decent job of delivering a thrill. However, it’s ultimately up to the viewer to decide if they want it.