Liam Neeson has had a resurgence of a career in the last few years. The actor behind Schindler’s List and Rob Roy has become more of an action star in such flicks as Clash of the Titans, The A-Team and the Taken series. His latest hero role is Non-Stop.
The story is fairly simple. Liam plays Bill Marks, an air marshal on a trans-Atlantic flight. Through different plot devices, the audience discovers that he is a very un-happy man who has lost everything. He is also an alcoholic and chain smoker. During the pre-boarding, he is always watching every person preparing to get on the plane. His goal is to spot any suspicious activity and he scans everybody. The camera of Jaume Collet-Serra lingers over both the terrorist looking guy and the white supremacist looking guy. It seems that not everyone on board is equal in the eye of Marks.
One of the passengers is Jen (Julianne Moore). She is a frequent flier who has a mysterious past. Jen tries to calm Marks as the plane takes off… it seems that our Air Marshall does not like to fly. During the flight, Marks gets a text on his secured line. Someone on the plane has hacked into his system. This mysterious person tells the marshal that if $150 million is not delivered into an account, someone on the plane will die every 20 minutes. Marks begins an investigation into who is behind the threat, and Jen is recruited to help.
The middle of the film becomes a clandestine search for the person who is making threats. As the tension escalates and the body count begins, the first true twist happens. The bank account for the $150 million is in Marks’ name. Soon the media believes that Marks in a rogue marshal who has hi-jacked the plane. In our plugged-in world, the other passengers discover what the media is presenting and being to question what is going on. The entire film builds between the two extremes of the plot. Is Marks a good guy or a terrorist? The revelations at 40,000 feet are the backbone of Non-Stop.
This is a paint–by-numbers thriller with an A-list cast and not much else going on. With such heavyweight actors as Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore, one would expect this to be a heavyweight thriller. The problem is with the director. As much as he tries to be, Jaume Collet-Serra is no Alfred Hitchcock. He never finds the right tension with the characters or the situation. He tries to paint a grand murder mystery within an action vehicle and fails on both accounts.
There are many illogical parts to the screenplay and things that would never happen on a real air-flight. No one notices that the threatening presence carried parachutes on the plane? No person on any cable news network wonders why an air marshal would go rogue? It becomes a silly exercise in impossibilities.
On the positive side, Julianne Moore still looks absolutely stunning on screen. Even though it seems that she’s in a different movie than Liam Neeson, she does have certain chemistry with the actor. Liam, of course, plays the anti-hero hero with rogue charm. This is more of a paycheck for both actors, roles that keep the IRS at bay more than for any kind of artistic merit. In the end, acting parts like these are done for the bottom line. Non-Stop is much more of a check your brain at the door kind of entertainment and not cinema. It exists to thrill and chill, not to give one a greater view on the human situation.