Liam Neeson re-teams with Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra for this twisty airborne thriller which sees a U.S. air marshal become embroiled in a blackmail plot…
Liam Neeson is back doing what he seemingly does best these days. It must have been the Jedi effect. Having played one of George Lucas’ lightsaber-wielding action heroes in 1999’s Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, the Northern Ireland-born actor swapped powerhouse dramatic roles in the likes of Schindler’s List and Michael Collins for limited vocabulary action heroes. He’s to the 2010’s what Bruce Willis and Sly Stallone were to the eighties. And has been proven in Taken and its sequel, Unknown, The Grey and now Non-Stop, he’s a man not to be messed with.
His latest vehicle sees him appear as down-on-his luck, alcoholic federal air marshal Bill Marks who routinely boards a plane from New York to London only to become the centre of a conspiracy that appears to place him as the aggressor. An unknown person onboard begins to send him messages that claim a passenger will be killed in twenty minutes unless they receive a substantial amount of cash. What ensues is a frenetic search for the killer amid the increasingly questionable motives of not only his fellow passengers but Marks himself.
Non-Stop does a lot of things right. It has an immediate sense of welcome intrigue beginning with Marks, a man obviously suffering the adverse effects of some past emotional trauma, while the assortment of passengers he meets on the way to his seat sets each one up as a possible antagonist. All the while the real motives of the air marshal remain ambiguous, his penchant for an alcoholic beverage muddying not only his own thinking but our willingness to accept him as victim rather than tormentor.
Neeson re-teams with his Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra for the film and the pair clearly enjoy working together. Neeson is in his element as the gruff, weary-eyed ex-cop and the actor plays on the enigmatic motivations of the character to draw as much suspense as possible from the events that transpire. As he seemingly loses control of the situation we’re unsure if it’s the result of the blackmailer or his own crazy plan.
There is, however, an unfortunate leaning towards over-complicating the red herrings. Indeed, Marks’ role as air marshal is strangely revealed as an early plot twist. Yet, while this certainly hampers the effectiveness of the film’s bloated, implausible finale, it works well prior to the story’s eventual revelation to keep tensions high as the truth behind the mystery remains intriguingly out of reach.
The film’s progress to its denouement is certainly full of excitement as the audience has to keep guessing but the red herrings won’t work as well second time around. Julianne Moore’s talents are wasted as a fellow passenger and while the finale is a convoluted mess it isn’t the worse thing about Non-Stop’s conclusion as some very shoddy CGI highlights the artificiality of the film’s underwhelming revelation.
Yet, there’s plenty to enjoy in this fast-paced thriller despite its flaws. And like Neeson’s recent action-orientated mysteries such as Taken and Unknown, there’s a b-movie quality to proceedings that begs you to look past the negatives, with anyone gaining enjoyment from those films surely finding plenty of entertainment value in Non-Stop.
Written by Daniel Stephens
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Written by: John W. Richardson, Chris Roach, Ryan Engle
Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Jason Butler Harner, Anson Mount, Lupita Nyong’o
Released: 2014 / Genre: Mystery-Thriller / Country: USA/UK/France / IMDB