Fasten your seat belts and put your tray tables in their full upright position…and keep your expectations grounded.
There are two ways to go into watching Non-Stop, the new action thriller starring the infallible Liam Neeson — 1) Expecting an intelligently crafted action film … OR … 2) Expecting an implausible and generally ridiculous action quickie that’ll keep you from being bored. Can you guess which way will result in a better time had?
Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who directed Liam Neeson in the 2011 thriller Unknown, properly exploits the 61 year old actor’s mesmerizingly unfazed screen presence by placing him at the center of another incredibly unlikely predicament. Neeson plays Bill Marks, an aged and emotionally troubled air marshal (we are force-fed this fact within the first few seconds of the movie), who must fight to protect a transatlantic flight full of passengers when a mysterious terrorist threatens (via private text message) to kill a passenger every twenty minutes unless $150 million is transferred to an offshore bank account. Oh boy oh boy! Right!? This is the type of set piece material that classic action films like Speed and Phone Booth (that’s a classic, yes?), and sure, Flightplan, are derived from. Once the thrills take off, they never let up. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
…Non-Stop is one of the most implausible movies made in a long time, not including films of the science fiction genre (let’s not start that discussion). It moves at a fast enough pace to negate any lingering thoughts about the plot’s improbability, but it’s very easy to identify the holes. For what it’s worth, Non-Stop offers some clever popcorn-flick-worthy mood shifts, ensuring that the intense sequences are followed immediately and seamlessly by comedic moments. Also, the plot takes a lot of twists and turns that will keep you guessing the identity of the villain, while also providing evidence and more twists that fly in the face of your predictions. I’d give Non-Stop‘s multiple screenwriters a lot of credit for creating a clever game of whodunnit, if it wasn’t for the shoddy few minutes within the third act when the terrorists’ motives are fully revealed.
Most of the credit goes to Neeson. The guy just knows how to kick ass and sound good doing it. Sure, kudos to director Collet-Serra for keeping the film tight and fast, but imagining Non-Stop starring anyone else…like, say…Chris Pine, just doesn’t have the same appeal. Not to bash Pine, but Non-Stop is the kind of film that requires a skilled actor that can traverse the not-so-subtle line between classy and campy without calling too much attention to it. Neeson can do that. Since Taken, that’s been his shtick most of the time – Clash of the Titans, The A-Team, Unknown, The Grey, Battleship, etc. (Note: Taken just started playing on TV right now in front of me. Cheers to promoting by association!)
So to return to my initial supposition about how to approach Non-Stop, I definitely recommend lowering your expectations as far down as you can, then go in just to have a good time. The filmmakers throw in a dash of credibility with a splendid Julianne Moore and reliable character actor Corey Stoll. Then, they added some comic relief and made sure to not let a minute pass without an ominous musical cue or a shocking twist. And there you have it…
…I feel the need to throw in one more pun before finishing… Non-Stop is a first class ticket to funville. See? So bad it’s good.
Non-Stop opens in Bay Area theaters today, February 28th.