Release Date: 28th February 2014
Running time: 106 minutes
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Lupita Nyong’o
Is there any actor with a more ridiculously varied resume than that of Liam Neeson? The man who played Oskar Schindler, Rob Roy and Michael Collins, not to mention voiced Aslan, fought Batman, and trained Obi Wan, has since become the most unlikely action hero of the 21st century. Using his particular set of skills, namely an ice-cold glare and a voice that could tame a panther, he has muscled his way to the top of the Hollywood action heavyweights, most of whom are at least a couple of decades his junior. In Non-Stop, he is back in all his wolf-punching glory, this time tackling terror at thirty-thousand feet.
Re-teaming with Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra, he plays Bill Marks, a burnt out air marshall with nothing left to lose. On a long haul transatlantic flight he receives anonymous messages from a passenger, saying they will kill someone on board every twenty minutes unless they receive a Macguffin-load of money. With the game well and truly afoot, Marks launches himself into the investigations with all the subtlety and tact of a napalm strike. His heavy-handedness is not exactly by-the-book, in fact it almost lands him on the terrorist watch list, but it more-or-less gets results. In less experienced hands, this absurd premise may have never made it off the runway. Thanks to Neeson, it doesn’t hit turbulence until just before landing.
To poke holes at the flaws in logic is to miss the point. Like it’s grizzled hero, Non-Stop is a throwback to trashy B-movie action films of the 80’s and 90’s. Filled with a by-the-numbers supporting cast of predictable stereotypes (Julianne Moore, a pleasure as always, is the only secondary player to get an extra dimension), Collet-Serra’s melodramatic approach to filming does a fine job of establishing that everyone on board is a suspect. It is a simple but effective mystery story, along with a couple of close-quarter fight scenes, that keeps everything ticking over nicely.
Unsurprisingly the final third doesn’t quite live up to the early promise of the opening acts; Marks’ rallying speech feels more like a South Park parody than an effective call-to-arms, and these types of film have no business using the events of 9/11 as a plot point. Fortunately by then so much good will has built up by the early in-flight entertainment that it doesn’t bring the whole project crashing to Earth. It may not be Neeson’s most important or grandiose role, but it serves as a piece of enjoyable popcorn entertainment that shows he can still hang with those action-whippersnappers.