Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
Non-Stop is directed by Jaume Collet-Sera and stars Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore.
It's conventional wisdom that age catches up with you eventually. Your body can only function with youthful exuberance for so long before your hair starts going gray and your knees start to give out on you. Liam Neeson is someone who didn't get the memo. The man is in his mid 60's, but old age has yet to stop him from starring in action thrillers that require him to punch, kick, and fire a gun. Taken is likely to be the first movie that comes to mind if one were asked to name a Liam Neeson action film (let us not dare speak of the other two Taken films), though some might mention any one of the Neeson-Jaume Collet-Sera action films. There's enough of the Neeson-Sera action thrillers (I think four to be exact as of 2018) and they are all similar in at least one or two ways, that they basically lend themselves to become something of a subgenre, a subgenre in which Neeson portrays a troubled character that gets himself into some perilous dilemma, and once we figure out everything that's going on, the results are middling at best.
In Non-Stop, it's Neeson facing a perilous dilemma on an airplane. Neeson portrays air marshal Bill Marks, on his way from New York to London. After everyone boards and the plane takes off, Marks receives a text message from an unknown sender, telling Marks that someone on the plane will die every 20 minutes, unless Marks transfers $150 million to a specified bank account. Marks takes various measures to try and identify the mysterious messenger, such as monitoring the plane's security cameras and alerting the TSA. Marks' aggressive behavior soon has the other passengers realizing that something is wrong, some even suspecting that Marks himself is behind the commotion.
Trying to describe other plot details would be flirting with spoilers, but regardless, it's all pretty shallow. You don't need to think too much to convince yourself that Non-Stop resembles a thriller more than a straight-up action film. The confined space of an airplane would make for a very cramped action movie, so the script, as it should, aims primarily for thrills.
- Non-Stop works best with its setup and its efforts in building suspense, maintaining itself as a guessing game for the majority of the run time and never being totally obvious about what is going on and who exactly is behind everything. The plot contains many wrinkles and finds a way to keep itself busy, which is something of an achievement because you can only do so much in the tight confines of an airplane that is in the midst of a flight. In other words, Non-Stop makes the most of its setting and avoids ever being downright boring.
- Oh, but then comes the film's third act, where we get a weak and confusing reveal of the secret text messenger, resulting in a total payoff dud. The film does not at all live up to the promise that it sets for itself early on, all the while throwing in some iffy CGI for the home stretch.
I want to praise Neeson, because he is certainly one of the film's strengths, but his character requires him to show a stern face and display a sorrowful demeanor, which isn't all that fun to watch. Fun is something I know the movie wants you to have, but you've come to the wrong place if you're expecting any kind of fun, wisecracking protagonist.
The quality of Neeson-Sera action thrillers are on a very narrow range from "not all that good" to "pretty good", and Non-Stop provides no counter-argument as to why it falls anywhere outside of that range. The thrills to be had in the film's first two-thirds are smushed by the implausible reveals and equally implausible events to be had in the film's final third. What you have with Non-Stop is fairly entertaining escapism, nothing more and nothing less. It's still disappointing in the sense that it could have been very rich escapism.
Recommend? If you can't decide on a movie to watch and need to kill a couple hours, this movie will do the trick.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: