3 1/2 StarsThe very first shot in Non-Stop is a close-up of Liam Neeson’s grizzled face. The scene is captured in slow-motion, as he looks down at a bottle of whiskey, contemplates, then pours its contents into his morning coffee. His creased face winces with the pungent taste of the brew, the camera lingers on his unshaven face for another second before breaking to the desolate parking lot of an International Airport. In trying to decipher why Neeson has become the Steven Seagal of the new millennium, I can see now that the appeal may be in part because the actor isn’t a superhuman do goodie, a vitamin chomping, mystical preaching martial artist. Rather, he is an alcoholic withdrawn man of regret and missed opportunity awoken by the chance to prove himself worthy for perhaps the final time in his life.
Bill Marks (Neeson) was discharged from the police force, and took a job as Air Marshall, because the pay is decent and he can drink without being noticed. On a non-stop flight from New York to London, Marks begins to receive a series of increasingly aggressive text messages on his secure-government issued phone. The person on the other side of the line proclaims that someone on the plane will die every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred into a particular off-shore account. The account is in Marks’ name and the public becomes convinced that Marks is the hijacker and not the pawn.
All the while still combing the plane over looking for the texter and stalling for time before another passenger is taken out by poisonous darts. Marks must contend with a sea of possible villains and the mounting aggression of passengers who view the Air Marshal as a terrorist. The pressure is on for Bill Marks to discover the identity of the mastermind behind the plan to bring down the plane.
Non-Stop does a sly job playing with our collective frustrations, fears, and blind faith in the goodwill of fellow passengers when dealing with the rituals of going through security to boarding and eventually becoming airborne. As a mystery the game is played fairly, the pieces are there for the inquisitive, but serpentine plot developments kept me guessing for longer than I originally expected. In the great tradition of airborne action films like Die Hard 2, Passenger 57, and Executive Decision; Non-Stop stands proudly amongst these genre hits.
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Stars: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery