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“I’m not hijacking the plane, I’m trying to save it!”


The H-Bomb:  Air Marshall Bill Marks (Liam Neeson), an edgy alcoholic with a tragic back-story, is barely keeping his shit together on an overnight flight to London when he receives text messages from an unknown sender.  After the typical “who the hell are you” question and answering is done with, the mysterious texts cut right to the chase, stating that every twenty minutes, someone on the plane will die, unless $150 million is wired into a certain account.

With over 100 people on the plane, Marks doesn’t even know where to start looking.  He notifies the pilots of what’s happening, and enlists the help of the only two people he knows he can trust, one of the flight attendants, Nancy (Michelle Dockery), and a fellow nervous flier, Jen (Julianne Moore), who was sitting next to Marks on the flight, to help him find the passenger sending the texts.  Before long, Marks realizes that it’s no hoax, as the bodies start to pile up.

Growing more frantic in his search, Marks begins to lose the trust and cooperation of the passengers, who he has been searching and questioning, while keeping them in the dark about the situation.  What’s worse, Marks learns that whoever is behind this hijacking of sorts is framing him for it.  Now, not only does Marks have to stop this invisible hijacker, he has to clear his own name, as well.

Non-Stop is the latest in the now annual line of late winter action movies to star Liam Neeson, who has reinvented himself as a kind of Steven Seagal-like ass kicker… the key difference between the two being that Neeson can actually act.  The movies Neeson has made as a late-in-life action star have ranged from pretty good (Taken) to oh-so-shitty (Taken 2).  Non-Stop, thankfully, is much closer to the former than the latter (seriously, fuck Taken 2).

Going into Non-Stop, I was expecting a kind of Die Hard on a plane type flick, like Air Force One or Executive Decision.  In actuality, it really isn’t that at all.  As directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who helmed a previous Neeson actioner, Unknown, as well as the mucho underrated Orphan, Non-Stop is really much more of a cat-and-mouse thriller than a straight up action film, with elements of mystery and a ticking clock thrown in for good measure.

Collet-Serra keeps the pacing tight as the plot’s numerous twists and turns keep coming, constantly shifting Marks’ (and our) suspicion from one passenger to another.  He also does a nice job of cranking up the sense of paranoia, as he frequently shows Neeson’s eyes, with growing urgency and frustration, scanning the crowd of passengers.  Though, I must be honest, when he tried to shift our suspicion onto the one Arab passenger, I thought to myself, “No, too obvious.”, and spoiler alert… I was right.

That one bit of obviousness aside, however, Collet-Serra did a fine job of keeping me guessing who the culprit was, and, I might as well confess, I was surprised when the bad guy was finally revealed.  That said, I found the villain’s motives not entirely convincing.  Also, I can’t get very specific for spoiler reasons, but there’s a plot detail towards the end involving the plane’s altitude that really makes no sense when one stops to think about it.  Then again, if there’s one thing Non-Stop has going against it, it’s that a number of aspects about the story don’t make much sense, if one takes the time and effort to really (nit)pick it over.

But, for the most part, these issues come up thinking back on the movie, after it’s over.  While it’s going, we’re with it one hundred percent, and the main reason for that is Liam Neeson.  As always, he plays it with conviction, and he makes us believe, even when the things happening on screen are less than believable, which, again, in this movie’s case, is quite often.  Even though we get a big confessional monologue about halfway through the film in which Marks explains to us why he’s so screwed up, we don’t really need it, because Neeson conveys so clearly throughout the film, without dialogue, that his character is damaged goods.

Just from his facial expressions and the way he’s carries himself, we can tell he’s a broken man.  That’s a level of performance that few can muster, but Neeson just makes it look so fuckin’ easy.  As for the physical stuff, he pulls that off pretty well, too, especially for a guy over sixty.  That life or death fist fight he gets into in the lavatory… awesomely brutal.  Hollywood’s greatest mouth breather, Julianne Moore, manages to be less annoying than usual, and Corey Stoll has some fine moments as an off-duty New York cop who butts heads with Marks, but really, Neeson is the main attraction here, and for good reason, he carries the flick flawlessly.

In fact, I would say that Neeson is better than the film itself.  While Non-Stop is certainly a solidly entertaining thriller, it’s not terribly significant, nor is it really going to stick with you after it’s over.  At best, it’s a decent way to kill a couple of hours.  No more, no less.



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