‘Non-Stop’ review: Air Vigilante

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February 28, 2014 by Hope W.

Liam Neeson as air marshal Bill Marks in Non-Stop

Liam Neeson as air marshal Bill Marks in Non-Stop

If you like conspiracy thrillers like Flightplan and Unknown, and action movies like Taken, you will surely like Non-Stop, which melds all these genres in a film project put together specially for Liam Neeson, the star of the latter two movies. A Hitchcockian thriller set in the confines of an airplane, Non-Stop keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering whodunit, whydunit, howdunit, what-on-earth-is-it, and coming up with some fairly ludicrous theories along the way in your bid to preempt the reveal. (At one point, I even considered that Liam Neeson’s character might turn out to be a schizophrenic.)

Julianne Moore, looking suspicious in Non-Stop

Julianne Moore as businesswoman Jen Summers, looking suspicious

Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks, an air marshal with heavy personal baggage, whose transatlantic flight is a few minutes into the air when he receives anonymous text messages over the airplane’s secure network informing him that someone will die every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred into an account. On the same plane is a supporting cast of passengers and crew for him to be suspicious of, including Julianne Moore’s frazzled businesswoman, Michelle Dockery’s flight attendant (a working class version of her Lady Mary in Downton Abbey), Scoot McNairy’s slacker backpacker, Omar Metwally’s Muslim doctor, Corey Stoll’s thug-like visage for which I will let you learn his occupation yourself, and many more such delightful stereotypes in this game of Clue. (Current Best Supporting Actress frontrunner Lupita Nyong’o pops up too in a small role that she obviously filmed before 12 Years a Slave propelled her into stardom.) And in a twist, the account number turns out to be under his name.

Michelle Dockery as flight attendant Nancy

Michelle Dockery as flight attendant Nancy in Non-Stop

The stern, craggy looks and deep gravelly voice that has given Liam Neeson the air of authority to pull off all his late-career action roles serves him well here, though he gets away with a little too much in his interrogation and manhandling of the passengers in his desperation to find out what is happening and prevent more deaths. One of the more unbelievable things in this film — besides the fact that the airplane has a perfectly usable network, outside of its “secure” one, that allows all the passengers to send text messages, watch breaking news, and upload videos to the Internet (aren’t planes supposed to be a no-phone zone?) — is that the passengers waited for so long to revolt against a seemingly unbalanced person with a gun who has been accused of hijacking the plane.

Corey Stoll and passengers

From left to right: Charles Wheeler, Corey Stoll and Corey Hawkins as passengers wondering if they should be subduing the air marshal right about *now*.

Still, our tortured hero is admirably single-minded in his mission: while others might be more concerned with protesting their innocence to the building accusations against them, Marks is unfazedly preoccupied with the safety of everyone on board and getting help from the same people who are deeply suspicious of him. The supporting cast is great in their various supportive roles, but the film is unmistakably Liam Neeson’s. Despite all his fairly similar roles in the last few years, I doubt I’ll get tired of watching him hunt down perpetrators — he has the world-weary air to pull it off, the one that says: “I’m tired of your shit and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Throw in a mystery and a cast that I like and I’m sold.

(On a side note: I still would like to know how someone looked at “Oskar Schindler” and decided that he would be a great fit to play an ex-CIA agent in Taken, the movie that launched his career renaissance as an action star.)

To be sure, there are lots of unexplained elements: like how the bomb was hid where it was hid — plus I completely missed how he deduced there was a bomb on the plane in the first place — when did Bill Marks start being targeted, if the guy who died first was in on the plot too, and so on. The actual reveal itself is also rather far-fetched and heavy-handed, but for the most part, it is a taut thriller that ends with a rousing and miraculous finish.

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