Non-Stop Review 
Posted by Terry Lewis on 03.01.2014
Liam Neeson is back doing what he does best in another 'Dad Fiction' escapade in Non-Stop! But does this tale of a killer threatening to kill a passenger every 20 minutes keep up the quality of Neeson's recent outings? Or does it plummet into a nosedive? 411's Terry Lewis checks in
Liam Neeson - Bill Marks Julianne Moore - Jen Summers Michelle Dockery - Nancy Hoffman Linus Roache - Captain McMillan Lupita Nyong'o - Gwen Lloyd Nate Parker - Zack White Scoot McNairy - Tom Bowen
Ah Liam Neeson. If there truly was a man who settled into a beloved niche in the action genre, it's him. Leading the charge for slightly older actors in "Dad Fiction", he is yet to really fail in any of his action vehicles since coming back to acting. Sure, he's always going to play a similar role as an elder father figure and/or statesman but when he does it so well, especially in his latest venture in Non-Stop, is there any reason for him NOT to do it?
Bill Marks (Neeson, The Lego Movie) is a United States Air Marshall who hates flight takeoffs. Some say he's in the wrong profession but it's the least of his problems with his alcoholism flairing up in his job now and again, as well as being away from his daughter. On a usually routine flight running Non-Stop from New York to London, his text bleeper used to check in with his work on a secure channel is hacked and he start receiving threats that every 20 minutes, someone on the plane will die unless $150 million is wired to a bank account. With the threat continuing to escalate, Bill has no choice but to catch the person behind the plot before it's too late for everyone onboard.
Neeson is his usual reliable self here. He plays a burnt out alcoholic quite well and you can tell from second one he's troubled and not completely there. This makes Bill such an engrossing character and at the start when everyone doubts him, you are left wondering if he's on an alcoholic trip or something similar. Neeson gets on with it and creates a nice character arc with all Bill's faults coming back to haunt him, yet he still proceeds to get on with his job and protect everyone on his goddamn airplane. I think that since Neeson only really gets to do this role every one-two years, so far it hasn't become a burden because it's still awesome to see him wreck the place up on the hunt for righting wrongs, saving his daughter or whatever scenario his recent film finds him in.
The same though can't really be said for his supporting cast. There is some really average acting on offer with some bad English accents floating around. Seriously the co-pilot's delivery of the term "wanker" at the end grated my teeth. Julianne Moore's I rate highly, especially off the recent Carrie remake, but here she doesn't really serve any purpose apart from "hey guys, we got Julianne Moore in this!" They tease a relationship with Bill but not til the end. The other characters seem to go into two camps: A) the various, memorable red herrings and suspects onboard, and B) unmemorable background characters, who yet are bloody good. This year's award season Best Supporting Actress golden girl Lupita Nyong'o turns up as Air Stewardess B for god's sake. Feels like a waste of a good cast all in all.
Away from that, you can really get behind Non-Stop's intensity. Absolutely no real stopping in the plot from the start with plenty to soak up, it more than lives up to it's action/mystery genre billing. For the first three quarters of the runtime, there's multiple potential resolutions to who the puppetmaster behind all the goings-on on the plane really is and you're left wondering who it could in a good way. There's so many different occurrences you'll have your own five candidates and yet not be so sure due to various covering of tracks before the big masterful reveal. I haven't seen this good a "detective" film in a fair while and it's glorious.
The effects on the most part are good surprisingly. There are some really cool albeit a bit unbelievable shots with an escort fighter jet flying alongside the stricken passenger plane and all the passengers raise their window guards to see it all along the plane in a row. Also, there was a pretty sweet tracking shot following Bill all through the first class interacting with other characters to set up the search for the villain but the camera will go through walls to speak to the pilots then go back out. The Sherlock-esque text message exchanges with what's written on Bill and other character's phones/beepers makes an unexpected but welcome appearance to scoot along the murder plots. What's even better is when one of the phones gets a broken screen and you can see certain swear words blurred out by broken glass in 'Text-vision'.
I really like Non-Stop but there's a fair few problems holding it back, especially with the closing sequence. Whilst the pace of the film is really good on a whole, it drops off right at the end. Here, with the plan and the bad guys revealed, it's all rushed and over so quickly, you're not really given any time to let anything sink in for a moment. There is an actual reasonable message that's worth listening to about national security & air travel, jarring though in it's timing, but the film's rapidly running out of screen time so all we really get is Bill K.O.'ing a bad guy and delivering a one liner before moving on. For such an important point in the movie with the question Why gets answered, it feels like the plot itself is unsure before moving swiftly on. The final action scene is understandably a bit awkward viewing and I can see why it was choreographed like it is, but come on guys - The Bourne Quadrilogy and the 'shakey-cam' method of filming is getting old now. I just want to see some clear one-on-one scrapping now and again y'know. Feels like I've been cheapened out of seeing something cool.
Also, Non-Stop suffers a fair bit from being unoriginal. It's not a problem itself as it didn't dent my enjoyment but when the clichés start piling up it gets tedious. The bits with the little girl which is meant to represent Bill's lost daughter aren't that many in number but the final part just feels tacked on when there's enough going on to make it an exciting scene. Feels so melodramatic compared to a good scene earlier when Bill admits to his fellow passengers he's not a good man but he's going to do his job and save them all. That's decent character development in my book compared to a botched job of throwing something in last minute. Whilst a fairly original idea of a serial killer, pre-planned going through passengers on a flight, the execution feels like something you've seen before like Red Eye.
For all it's faults which pile up in the final third though, this put me in a good mood when I needed it and will do so for you too. As a piece of Liam Neeson vehicle escapism, this is superb. The twists and turns in the plot are pretty engaging with numerous red herrings and various plausible reasons etc. makes it an engrossing hour and a half-ish where you won't be left distracted. In fact, at the end, I wasn't disappointed with who was revealed to be the mastermind and more so myself with not figuring out who was behind the events of Non-Stop earlier.
The 411: This won't be the best thing you see all year in 2014, but it's a more than satisfying stop gap until it comes along. Non-Stop continues a very welcome trend of great "Liam Neeson is an older guy doing (BLANK) and must (BLANK)" films with a deliciously hypnotizing 100 minutes of pulse-raising mystery action. Ignore it's unoriginality and a wasted supporting cast and it's winner for a night's entertainment.