Synopsis: Global action star Liam Neeson stars in Non-Stop, a suspense thriller played out at 40,000 feet in the air. During a transatlantic flight from New York City to London, U.S. Air Marshal Bill Marks (Neeson) receives a series of cryptic text messages demanding that he instruct the government to transfer $150 million into an off-shore account. Until he secures the money, a passenger on his flight will be killed every 20 minutes.
Release Date: February 28, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Action, Thriller
By its second shot, Non-Stop, the latest in an annual pattern of February releases starring Liam Neeson, sets up exactly what type of film it wants to be. In that shot, we see Neeson’s character, Air Marshal William Marks, tired-eyed, grizzled, and isolated, pouring alcohol into a coffee cup. It’s a trite move on the filmmakers’ part, and an obvious one at that, but what that shot does is paint the film a very specific way. Ultimately, that subtle decision says this is going to be a film that falls into some predictable conventions, both as a mystery/thriller, and a Liam Neeson film.
Luckily, while Non-Stop makes no qualms about its intentions, it’s still an utterly enjoyable time at the movies. It appropriately builds tension, has its fair share of thrilling moments, and is bolstered by yet another stellar performance by Neeson. By all accounts, this should have been an easily dismissible attempt at building off the success of the first two Taken films, but it’s not. Instead, there’s a lot more intrigue to watching Non-Stop‘s story unfold than expected, even if it is predictable. Not to mention, the film is exciting practically the whole way through.
Non-Stop‘s story is fairly straightforward on its surface, but presents enough twists and turns that it doesn’t feel totally derivative. Marks discovers that someone on his latest flight is both well aware of his alcoholic tendencies and his do-good attitude towards his job, and seeks to take advantage of that by first threatening bodily harm to the flight’s passengers and then framing him for the crimes. So, as the evidence continues to mount towards Marks as the culprit, it’s up to him to uncover what is truly going on, all while trapped in a speeding bullet traveling 30,000 feet in the air.
By all accounts, most viewers of the Non-Stop trailer will know where the film is going. But this is a classic case where the journey supersedes the destination, because frankly the destination is an abomination. When the film finally reveals the whats and the whys of it all, Non-Stop‘s story rapidly comes apart at the seams. It certainly shows that the film had four writers; this is a classic case where the concept is strong but the finish needs work. Still, the moments that work up to that finish are exciting enough that the final set of reveals are only marginally disappointing. And, of course, Neeson is just so charismatic that you’d root for him against any bad guy.
Non-Stop isn’t the type of film that you’d call creative or unique, it’s simply an effective piece of popcorn entertainment that knows how to thrill. There are some flashes of style to the filmmaking, enough to give it some flavor, and there are even some strong performances from the supporting cast, namely Julianne Moore as a nosy passenger. Some of the casting as a whole is a little questionable – certain roles feel more like caricatures – but those of most importance are filled well by solid actors.
Like Taken, Non-Stop is a straightforward release that succeeds where it counts: it entertains almost from beginning to end. Liam Neeson is, as usual, great in the role of an unhinged Air Marshall that you can tell is still good at his job. He punches a few bad guys, uncovers a few mysteries, and he’s the gruff subtle badass you want him to be. The combination of an entertaining story and a strong lead performance is frankly good enough to make Non-Stop worth recommending. A better twist might have made the film truly exceptional – a one-of-a-kind thriller – but as it stands the film is a fun time at the movies.
While Non-Stop might function extraordinarily well as a thriller, it is not the “Taken on a plane” many might be expecting. There are a few pointed moments of action that do call to mind Neeson’s previous stunt work, both in choreography and physicality, but they are so few and far between that it’s hard to call Non-Stop an action film. It’s unfortunate that a film like Non-Stop needs this type of clarification, but it’s important that moviegoers approach the film with a certain mindset. That will make the experience all the better. It’s enjoyable, just maybe not in the ways you expect.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Jaume Collet-Serra
- Screenwriter(s): John W. RichardsonChristopher RoachRyan Engle
- Cast: Liam Neeson (Bill Marks)Julianne Moore (Jen Summers)Scoot McNairy (Tom Bowen) Michelle Dockery (Nancy)Nate Parker (Zack White)Corey Stoll (Austin Reilly)Lupita Nyong’o (Gwen)
- Editor(s): Jim May
- Cinematographer: Flavio Martinez Labiano
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: John Ottman
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA