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Liam Neeson’s reinvention as an action hero continues in the recently released Non-Stop. The film, an action/thriller, puts Neeson in the role of Bill Marks, a United States air marshal on a direct flight from New York City to London. Marks is forced into action when a mysterious presence threatens to kill a passenger every twenty minutes unless 150 million dollars is transferred into a bank account. Matters are complicated when TSA discovers that the account is in Marks’ own name. Also complicating matters are an uncooperative fellow marshal, a skeptical pilot, and several passengers with agendas of their own. Now, Marks must stop the threat to the passengers while also clearing his name and saving the plane from certain disaster.
This is a film I have been looking forward to for quite some time. Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra previously collaborated on 2011’s underrated Euro-thriller Unknown, where Neeson played a secret agent with amnesia. Serra’s not exactly a strong director, but he has potential and his work on Non-Stop is competent. He is adequately able to convey a sense of tension on the plane, already a cramped and uncomfortable setting. The film is buoyed by Neeson’s performance as Marks. Neeson has never once phoned in a performance in his career and Non-Stop is no exception. The solid supporting cast includes Julianne Moore (like Neeson, another strong performer), Corey Stoll (fresh off an Emmy nomination for Netflix drama House of Cards), and Anson Mount (of AMC’s Hell on Wheels).
I mostly enjoyed the story of Non-Stop as well. I appreciated the subtlety Neeson brought to his character, though the character himself is written in quite a clichéd manner. Of course Marks is a broken man, dealing with the residual effects of alcoholism and having suffered a divorce. The weak point in the film is in its script, but there are several tense moments in the story, and several twists and turns that I liked as well. I very much appreciated some of the goofier yet bolder twists and turns in Non-Stop, though I have seen others criticize them online, and I can’t disagree wholly. When the final villain of the film is revealed, however, the story does fall apart a fair amount. The ending is a bit unfortunate considering how well the initial threat of a passenger dying every twenty minutes is portrayed. I have to say that I did enjoy the ride, however.
Despite its best efforts, Non-Stop isn’t a deep, thought-provoking film. It wants to say some smart things about security and society, but these are not handled in effective ways. Unknown similarly tried to swoop in with some taut political nonsense, and it was honestly handled better in that film (the subject matter in Unknown is arguably deeper than that in Non-Stop as well). Neeson is top-notch as an action hero, however, and the supporting cast is really fantastic. Despite clichéd concepts and a story that doesn’t end as strongly as it began, I enjoyed Non-Stop for what it is, a decent action/thriller that is designed to entertain for 90 minutes. On this count, it is a successful venture. Serra is a competent director, and if he gets a stronger script than I expect a better film from him next time. I hope it’ll star Liam Neeson as well.