The gruff, testosterone-filled charisma that turned actor Liam Neeson into the action superstar he is today just isn’t enough to keep your full interest in Non-Stop. The high-intensity action movie stumbles right away in the first 20 minutes due to poor pacing and familiar themes that dull out the suspense at crucial points in the narrative.
- Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
- Writers: John W. Richardson, Chris Roach, Ryan Engle
- Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Lupita Nyong’o, Nate Parker, Corey Stoll
- Cinematography By: Flavio Martínez Labiano
- Original Music By: John Ottman
Bill (Liam Neeson) is a troubled air marshall who’s trying his best to do his job, but it’s about to get far more difficult than he could have ever imagined. When he boards an overnight flight to London, he’s targeted by an unknown person to cough up $150 million dollars or every 20 minutes a person on the plane will die. Now he’s running against the clock as he narrows down the list of potential suspects out of 150 passengers, tries to keep his inner demons hidden deep within himself, and save the lives of these potentially innocent people.
- The Second Half: If Non-Stop began at the point in the story when the passengers begin turning on Bill (Neeson), then the audience’s full attention would be entirely with the film. Unfortunately we get some lackluster padding coating the sides of a number of suspenseful sequences. When the film finally gets into the real meat of the thriller and the passengers become aware of the situation, that’s when the story picks up. Not only is Bill getting all sorts of hell from the authority that gave him the air marshall badge, but even the passengers begin to doubt his word, and some see him as a threat. The constant questioning as to who’s the man behind all this madness continues to beat down on him, and that piared with the time constraint makes it all the more suspenseful and fun to watch. It’s just a shame that the heart-pounding thrills aren’t consistent.
- Liam Neeson: When it comes to portraying an array of conflicting emotions, while still having the look of a man who can seriously mess up your bone structure, Liam Neeson is one of the best actors who’s ever become an action star. And though isn’t one of his better efforts, Non-Stop gives him enough to show both his sensitive side, and his ability to put foot to ass.
- Whodunnit: Mystery thrillers are tricky to piece together, especially when you’re dealing with a barrage of movie-goers who are eager to find out who the villains are right off the bat. It’s difficult to keep the mystery of that away from the eyes of the audience, and in some ways Non-Stop succeeds in doing just that, but not without a price. When Bill combs through a variety of the passengers on the airplane, briefly interrogating one after the other, it gradually becomes tiresome to watch. We know that Bill is an unstable man right off the bat, and this erratic behavior of his is more or less to be expected because that’s what the villain wants to see. Interest in the mystery wanes around the 40 minute mark, simply because you can tell the reveal is a long way off, which makes you hope that — at least — the conclusion and the reasoning behind it will be good enough to make this all worthwhile, but it doesn’t.
- Direction: Jaume Collet-Serra’s breakthrough film Orphan is excellent, but here he’s a little sloppy. The shaky cam is almost unbearable whenever he uses it, and a lot of the shots make the inside of the airplane feel a bigger, and less claustrophobic, which works against the narrative. There are certain points later on in the movie where the intensity and well-placed shots go hand in hand, but it doesn’t happen enough to really keep the suspense, the thrill of this film going for the viewer.
- Quiet Score: When I first got out of the film I questioned whether there was much of a score, merely because it blended so much into the background of Non-Stop. To make it worse, the score teetered into the realm of sounding like a generic piece of music that a filmmaker would slap on some lukewarm action thriller. There’s a certain tempo, a beat that resonates greatly in a lot of action movies within the past decade. As the hours pass by it becomes increasingly difficult to recall the beats just because it blends in so well with similar action scores. There’s nothing particularly bad or wrong about this score, but it won’t be echoing in your head when you walk out the theater.
- Wasting Good Talent: Julianne Moore should have better things to do with her time rather than sit here playing second fiddle in a ho-hum action movie. I desperately wish that I could tell her to get her hands on better material than Non-Stop, but there she is wandering around the airplane with a quizzical look on her face throughout half of the film. It’s understandable that at the time Lupita Nyong’o wasn’t a known name and that she would get shafted into a cruddy flight attendant role, but this must have been shot around the time of 12 Years A Slave so nobody knew the kind of acting power the young woman possessed. It just upsets me when I see fine talent like these two ladies spend some of their time in a lackluster thriller such as this.
- Dated Themes: There were a couple cringe-worthy moments within Non-Stop where they bobbed the script in and out of possible offensive territory, whether it be through stereotyping Muslims in an airplane to preaching about the Iraqi War. Yes, these events and stereotypes were a significant part of our ever-changing culture post 9/11, but it’s been well over a decade since that time. It makes the script of Non-Stop appear extremely dated when they’re barking about the potential of this flight being a target for a terrorist attack, and problems dealing with homeland security. There’s still some arguments to be made on those topics, but it doesn’t make this movie any better.
- The Rest Of The Story: Another topic that ran throughout the film was Bill’s past, which was more or less an afterthought of exposition that a screenwriter decided to stuff in just to make the script feel fuller, more complete. There is little to really make you care about any of these characters, aside from Liam Neeson just because he’s a recognizable face and a cool action movie star. We receive just a little amount of character dimensions and depth in this story that when they decided to pack on the “clever” reasonings behind these crimes, it’s practically cringe-worthy to hear. Non-Stop is a stupid, fairly goofy type of one-dimensional action thriller but it wasn’t done on purpose, which makes it all the more painful to see when the story unfolds.
There isn’t much that can save this limp action thriller from being anything more than a weak attempt at being an edge-of-your-seat type of film. Some fans will trudge their way through the winter weather to watch this film, but those who love Liam Neeson are better off staying at home and re-watching Taken.
Non-Stop comes out in theaters everywhere on February 28.