Liam Neeson is an air marshal standing in the way of a killer on board a plan in the new action thriller Non-Stop. Is the new film worth your time or is it a disappointment? 411's Jeffrey Harris checks in with his full review!
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra Written By: John Richardson, Chris Roach, and Ryan Engle Runtime: 106 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references
Bill Marks - Liam Neeson Jen Summers - Julianne Moore David McMillan - Linus Roache Nancy - Michelle Dockery Kyle Rice - Jason Butler Harner Austin Reilly - Corey Stoll Dr. Fahim Nasir - Omar Metwally Tom Bowen - Scoot McNairy Zack White - Nate Parker Gwen - Lupita Nyong’o Agent Jack Hammond - Anson Mount Agent Marenick - Shea Wigham
There is nothing like a good ‘ole, traditional action flick. And if the stylings of the likes of Die Hard, Under Siege, Speed, Supercop, The Rock, or even the more recent Olympus Has Fallen or Taken are your among your poison, then Non-Stop could very well be your speed. While I would never count Non-Stop, the latest quick and dirty Liam Neeson starring action vehicle, among the classics of the genre, it offers a fun, thrilling action ride in less than two hours.
The scenario is far from unique. We've seen manly men of action matching wits with terrorists or evil doers on a plane in the likes of Passenger 57 and Executive Decision, which were among the high points of similarly themed high concept action films. But Non-Stop does add a few nice twists to the scenario at least under the direction of Jaume Collet-Serra, whose career has been a bit of a mixed bag thus far between the House of Wax remake, Orphan, and Unknown. Non-Stop is by far the most effective movie he’s made in his career thus far, which may not be saying much, but it should be taken as a compliment to his work on this film.
In Non-Stop, Neeson portrays Northern Ireland expat Bill Marks, a former NYPD police officer-turned-down-on-his-luck Federal Air Marshal. Marks' latest job takes him on a transatlantic flight from New York to London, with a three day layover he’s desperately trying to avoid. On top of that, he’s an alcoholic taking liquor in his morning coffee just to get by, and he has no problem taking a cigarette break in an airplane lavatory he disguises by duct taping the smoke detector. Neeson is then messaged on the secure Federal line on his work phone that a killer on board will kill a person on the flight every 20 minutes if he’s not wired $150 million into a given account number. There are 150 people on board the plane, and any number of them could be the culprit. Tensions escalate after Marks informs the flight crew and the pilot David (Roache), who are slow to go on Bill’s already shaky credibility. They are seemingly already aware of Bill’s issues and vices. At first, Bill’s suspicions fall on the other Federal Air Marshal on board, Agent Hammond (Mount). These suspicions prove partly correct, though not completely in the way we think. Bill is forced into a brutal, vicious close quarters combat fight with Hammond that leaves Hammond dead. Now, unsure of who to trust and with the killer framing Bill in the plot to hijack the plane, Bill must unravel who the culprit is and unravel the mystery before more are killed or Homeland Security gets anxious and decides to shoot down the plane.
Again, this scenario is not exactly original, but the movie is no less fun or entertaining. Liam Neeson is in full Taken mode here. There’s little variation between Bill Marks and Taken’s Bryan Mills. Both are uber-badasses, single and/or divorced, masters of hand-to-hand combat, exceptional in a crisis and have broken family lives as well as daughter issues. And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that considering Neeson naturally has a lot more charisma and presence than many of the current prop of young action stars. Clint Eastwood in his heyday played many characters comparable to “Dirty” Harry Callahan in movies that were both equally entertaining and successful. Non-Stop is not much different from that. Bill Marks is characterized more as a blue collar worker type than Bryan Mills, noted in his background as an ex-NYPD officer rather than a CIA “Preventer.” So it’s a bit more of a John McClane-type role for Neeson, but again, the resemblance to Bryan Mills, like with his lethally efficient fighting skills, is incredibly similar.
Where Collet-Serra succeeds with the concept is providing a nice little twist of a “whodunit” plot in the mystery surrounding the killer. The action sequences were also well shot and creative noting the close and claustrophobic quarters of a commercial plane. The final action sequence is a little on the goofy side and over-the-top, but what action movie isn't in some fashion? And the plot builds to it rather well, with the ticking clock as well as the doors closing in on Marks. With each passing moment, his implication in the hijacking plot becomes greater.
The plot doesn't offer any huge surprises, and the dialogue is a bit on the trite and banal side. This is unsurprising with several writers being credited for the script. Everything is pretty by-the-numbers. Bill befriends a plucky, female potential love interest, Jen (Moore). There's a spunky old lady on the plane. There's a well-educated man of Middle Eastern descent (Metally) who is a good guy. He's exonerated early after people give him questioning looks. There are some other familiar faces I enjoyed seeing here, such as character actor Linus Roache who has a brief, but decent, supporting role as the pilot. Roache is an actor I've always enjoyed seeing in films such as this. The cast also has some decent, yet thankless, roles for Downtown Abbey'sMichelle Dockery and 12 Years A Slave'sLupita Nyong'o as the jet's flight attendants.
But overall, Non-Stop is effective and works for what it has to do. It’s serviceable, and for this type of action flick, there really is nothing wrong with that. Non-Stop is far from exceptional, but it gets the job done as a quick, fun, action-packed romp.
The 411: Non-Stop is an entertaining, by-the-rules action flick. It's pretty disposable, but still overall fun and memorable through Liam Neeson's entertaining performance and the concept of having him play a badass air marshal against a nefarious killer on a transatlantic flight. If you enjoy, traditional, basic action films, Non-Stop is a decent, good time. You can waste money on worse films.