These days, how well you enjoy suspense-thrillers generally depends on how willing you are to accept and overlook ludicrous scenarios and gaping plot holes. They’ve gotten so outlandish lately because the attention span of audiences has become significantly slimmer. Something huge has to happen every few minutes or people will start checking their phones and drifting off to sleep. Non-Stop takes this into account and effectively keeps the action and the tension at a peak through almost its entire runtime. And thanks to star Liam Neeson’s genuine action star appeal, I had no trouble enjoying it.
As long as the characters can be engaging and relatable, I’ve never had a problem with turning my brain off and enjoying these wild off-the-wall mysteries that Hollywood has pumped out over the years. There’s only one moment towards the end where this film not only slipped, but actually tumbled over and fell flat on its face due to a completely silly, preachy monologue that I guess is supposed to be some sort of commentary on our current state of homeland security. It was entirely nonsensical, as well as unnecessary.
Neeson plays Federal Air Marshall Bill Marks, who’s quickly established as an alcoholic and someone with perhaps a rather rough past. We meet the other passengers on the plane: a little girl scared of flying for the first time, a jerk who won’t stop yacking on his cell phone, a neurotic middle aged woman who’s demanding a window seat (no one plays subtly crazy better, or more often, than Julianne Moore), etc. Then Neeson starts getting anonymous text messages from someone claiming to be aboard the plane. The texts say that if $150 million isn’t deposited into a specific account number, the sender will kill someone aboard every twenty minutes. Some rather inconvenient situations come about which leads many onboard to suspect that Neeson himself is the culprit, and this helps us to continue to sympathize with his fear and his struggles.
Yes, as soon as the film was over, a number of gaping inconsistencies passed through my mind, and I’m sure that if I went back and watched the film again, knowing the outcome, a hundred more would come up. But so what? This movie is made to entertain, and it succeeds. Director Jaume Collet-Serra films the proceedings with an intense, well-focused, claustrophobic feel and Neeson sells every new development with a sincerity and earnestness that keeps us engaged all the way through. I was reminded of the Bruce Willis vehicle A Good Day To Die Hard, in which Willis brought very little in the way of personality to that terribly generic, uninspired fourth sequel. With Neeson, we feel every moment.
Non-Stop will probably be forgotten about amongst the other Neeson thrillers that have consistently entered the cineplexes since his action-star making turn in 2009’s Taken, but as far as February movies go, where there’s little else out there that’s worth considering, you can do a lot worse. Heck, if you want to treat this as a comedy and just go and laugh at how insanely over-the-top the plot-twists get, you’ll likely be far more entertained by that than you would by any type of viewing of The Monuments Men. Don’t think too much. Just sit back, fasten your seatbelt,raise your tray table to the upright and locked position, relax and enjoy Non-Stop.
Grade – B