Non-Stop: Neeson Goes Plane Crazy
Chris Kavan - wrote on 05/28/14
If it wasn't for Liam Neeson, Non-Stop would have been the 2014 equivalent of Passenger 57 - that is, generic action at its finest (only on a plane!). Lucky for use, Neeson has took up the helm for aging action icon that Arnie and Stallone could only wish for. That being said, Non-Stop isn't perfect by any means, but for those who like action, along with a bit of suspense, this movie will scratch that itch.
Neeson has perfected the art of playing the battle-hardened, yet not heartless, agent/officer/Jedi Master - and in Non-Stop he can add alcoholic air marshal to the list. We know from the start he has issues - but also know he's a good buy because he helps a child overcome her fear of getting on an airplane with the old stuffed animal trick. Shortly into his hours-long international flight, he begins receiving a series of text messages (over a "secure" network no less) that pretty much spells out that people will die unless $150 million is deposited into a specific bank account. Things go from bad to worse when he learns this account is inexplicably in his name and suspicion falls on him.
Granted, suspicion runs rampant in this movie - and that's one of the things that kept things interesting. Pretty much everyone becomes a suspect at one point in time - from Julianne Moore's sympathetic character to Corey Stoll's hot-headed NYPD passenger. Could it be one of the overly-helpful flight attendants (played by Michelle Dockery and a too-underutilized Lupita Nyong'o) or the token Muslim doctor (Omar Metwally) or even a fellow air marshal (Anson Mount). Better keep track, because just as soon as you think you have it figured out - you'll suspect someone else. Granted, looking back, it's not that hard to guess the real bad guys, but at least the movie makes a good effort at keeping you guessing.
There are some great action sequences here - though not as many as you would think. But then again, it does take place on a single plane - you can't exactly have a throwdown in the middle of a flight. But there doesn't have to be too much action - Neeson's presence is enough to get some great scenes - whether he's shaking down passengers or simply texting away - no matter what he does, he always has that steely-eyed and dead serious approach. Out of the supporting cast, Moore is mostly trivial, though I did like Dockery's flight attendant and Stoll (so good in House of Cards) was an strange, yet effective, choice as the combative police officer. Scoot McNairy also does a fine job as another put-upon passenger.
My biggest complaint is twofold - one, though the characters are good, other than Neeson (and a bit of Moore), you hardly go more than skin deep on any of them. People die, but it's hard to feel much when you have five minutes of exposition about them. I also thought the big ending (where we discover the truth behind the nefarious plot) was a bit ridiculous and strayed too far into sociopolitical territory. It felt a bit out-of-place and just struck a weird chord with me. There are also cliches galore to be found here - but at least is doesn't get too generic.
In the end, Non-Stop may not make leaps and bounds into action movie history, but thanks to Neeson's presence, it also doesn't fall flat. If you've enjoyed any of his films in the past, this will be another good choice.