Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Omar Metwally, Nate Parker, Scoot McNairy, Jason Butler Harner
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references
The pre-Oscar season of dull movies studios don’t expect to succeed is finally easing a bit. “Non-Stop” is a film that’s almost summer-action-thriller-esque. It isn’t particularly ground-breaking, but succeeds in its aim to entertain, at least it does if you aren’t expecting it to be a thrilling summer roller-coaster ride of a flick.
Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is an air marshal, tasked with keeping passengers and crew safe on a trans-Atlantic flight. He’s one of those archetypal messy heroes – a drunk, miserable, and generally a failure. Naturally, once there’s a threat to his passengers (he’s told via texts on his encrypted phone that a passenger will die every 20 minutes until money is transferred to a specific account), he springs into action – even though his actions frighten and confuse everyone else on the flight.
This is both a closed-room mystery and a psychological thriller, and while the big reveal may not work for everybody, there’s no questioning that this is a film set in and inspired by today’s world of TSA scans and constant cell and internet access. The paranoia around terrorism and air travel is real, and “Non-Stop” taps into that, giving us passengers who are panicky and inspired by stories of resistance against hijacking. Poor Bill winds up with almost nobody on his side, especially once he starts actively trying to figure out who the killer might be.
Neeson has been playing characters like this for quite a while now – tired, world-worn men with deadly abilities and a longing for a different life. He plays Bill as a defeated, almost despairing man whose obligation to protect those in his charge runs deep enough to overcome his urge to self-destruct. The rest of the cast do a good job of being red herrings – Julianne Moore as Bill’s seatmate, Michelle Dockery as a stewardess Bill knows and works well with, Omar Metwally as the one doctor on the plane, and so on.
The filmmakers do a good job of making the airplane seem both claustrophobic and too large for Bill to watch everyone at once. Once things really hit the fan in the final act, the special effects are decent enough that we don’t have to be thrown out of the excitement by fake-looking airplanes.
This is not a brilliant, intellectual film, but it succeeds in being an entertaining one if you’re willing to meet it on its own level. Director Jaume Collet-Serra’s other films include “Orphan,” which had a similar level of quality (though it leaned toward the horror end of the thriller axis rather than the action end like “Non-Stop”). If you’re willing to overlook weaknesses and the occasional ridiculous twist, and want to be entertained for a couple of hours by a moderately clever thriller, “Non-Stop” is worth seeing.