***1/2 (out of 5)
February 28, 2014
Liam Neeson as BILL MARKS
Julianne Moore as JEN SUMMER
Scoot McNairy as TOM BOWEN
Michelle Dockery as NANCY
Nate Parker as ZACK WHITE
Corey Stoll as AUSTIN REILLY
Lupita Nyong’o as GWEN
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
There are several types of films that I’m a sucker for. One of them is danger on a plane movies. Whether it’s snakes or hijackers or international terrorists, I’m predisposed to like a movie where people are trapped in a metal cylinder 40,000 feet in the air.
I’m also a sucker for Liam Neeson action flicks. His career is kind of amazing, actually, if you remember the fact that he’s been knocking around Hollywood since the 80s. He wasn’t taken seriously as an actor here in the states until he was in “Michael Collins” and later the “Star Wars” prequels. However, he really didn’t get a boost to his career until he made “Taken” in 2009.
That film made him a bona fide action star, and he continues that trend today after films like “Unknown,” “The Grey,” “Taken 2” and now “Non-Stop.”
And the dude is in his 60s. Holy shit.
In “Non-Stop,” Neeson plays a U.S. Air Marshal on a transatlantic flight. Once they’re in the air, he starts getting threatening texts through his secure network. Taking matters into his own hands, he tries to solve the mystery of who is pulling the strings so he can save the life of the passengers. As he starts to suspect everyone on the plane at some point, he discovers that he is being framed for the hijacking.
While this film is pretty much a paint-by-numbers airline thriller, it’s set up is done exceptionally well. It helps to have Neeson commanding the screen, along with Julianne Moore, who plays one of the passengers he begins to trust. These two together show that even a very basic and disposable thriller can be quite good with excellent actors in charge of it.
There’s plenty of questions that need to get answered throughout the movie, letting a slick little whodunit come through the story. Of course, like any film that has such a nice set-up, the payoff isn’t nearly as good. That’s par for the course. Sure, the ending has plenty of action and excitement. Instead, it’s the explanation and the whydunit that plays a bit soft. Rather than being a solvable murder mystery, “Non-Stop” keeps you guessing for basic questions and offers a resolution that might be a bit predictable.
Still, “Non-Stop is a perfectly entertaining Saturday night movie. It works in a large crowd at the theater because there’s the excitement that people collectively feel watching the film. In the end, the first two-thirds of the movie make the last third forgivable.
Liam Neeson is developing a strong subgenre for himself, and he’s doing it while he’s eligible for an AARP card. I, for one, am thrilled by these movies he’s making, and I look forward to many more.