ONE BUMPY RIDE
Liam Neeson’s Non-Stop is the most preposterous flight flick since Snakes on a Plane
Liam Neeson looks like the thinking person’s action hero, mostly due to his air of gravitas and an Irish accent that seems more serious than the usual tough guy.
In fact, Neeson’s actorly weight works against him: the solid action heroism just sets off the fact that many of his thrillers don’t actually make sense. It’s one thing to have Bruce Willis banging around in some pyrotechnic claptrap but we expect more from Oskar Schindler.
Take Non-Stop, a thriller about melancholy air marshal Bill Marks (Neeson, bleary eyed and unshaven and so distraught that he smokes in the lavatory.)
Marks is on a flight from New York to London when he begins receiving messages on his special in-flight mobile phone that demands $150 million or a passenger will be killed every 20 minutes.
Non-Stop — which takes its title seriously — becomes a frenzied effort to rescue passengers or, as a last resort, actually kill some of them, to identify the bad guy, save the plane, and redeem Bill’s reputation, seeing how it’s starting to look like he may be an unhinged hijacker himself.
As an airborne drama, it’s the most preposterous flight since that plane that had snakes on it. Several people are indeed killed, in ways that seem impossible to have set up. The motivations of the villain are absurd. The media frenzy that surrounds the adventure is ludicrous. Even the tensions are frittered away.
It’s possible to have a good time in this movie as long as you fasten your seatbelt, grab the armrests and allow yourself to be swept away by Neeson’s dark tone of purpose. And don’t forget to extinguish all thought processes.
Non-Stop is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who guided Neeson through Unknown, the thriller where a man wakes from a coma to find his life has been taken over by someone else. There’s a similar high-concept idea at work here, but it is even less likely.
For most of the movie Bill searches the plane for the person sending him the text messages, and he encounters a grab bag of types: it’s Airship of Fools. There’s another air marshal with a questionable agenda; a homophobic New York cop on the way to London for his brother’s wedding to another man; a guy in a Muslim skull cap carrying a big black bag; a schoolteacher in glasses who says he’s bound for Amsterdam and then turns up on the London flight; a couple of attractive flight attendants (one of them played by Lupita Nyong’o, fresh from her Oscar nomination for 12 Years a Slave), plus an assortment of passengers with the usual aggrieved attitudes, all demanding to know what’s going on and asserting their rights. First the lousy leg room, and now this.
There’s also Jen (Julianne Moore), Bill’s attractive seatmate, who wants a spot by the window. Liam Neeson is on the case: a troubled action hero who can fight and shoot, but whose most powerful weapon is his brain. Don’t forget to leave yours at the check-in counter.