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Review: 'Non-Stop' action, Neeson make for enjoyable trip

Non-Stop represents the moment when entertainment got serious in 2014.

Liam Neeson stars as an air marshal with big problems in "Non-Stop."
Universal

It’s a thriller wrapped in a mystery and tied with a big actiony bow. Part of its charm comes from the fact that the film, written by John Richardson, Chris Roach and Ryan Engle, doesn’t give up its secret easily. Actually they’re not given up until the last possible moment after director Jaume Collet-Serra has turned it into a white-knuckle thriller of high caliber. It opens today (Feb. 28).

The second charm that Non-Stop possesses? Liam Neeson – the Oscar-nominated Irish actor who’s found a career as a middle-aged action star years after he began one known for critically acclaimed theater roles and parts in movies such as Schindler’s List , his best known role.

His switch to actioners surprised everyone in the film industry. Maybe the prospect of really going out on a limb and playing against type really appealed to him. But as noted in a recent interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, it could be his method of therapy after the death of his wife in a skiing accident.
He’s had a string of action film hits, but this is by far the best movie of the bunch as we meet a fully realized character in air marshal Bill Marks.

What Marks doesn’t realize is he’s about to have a hell of a day.

After taking a drink to deal with the prospect of yet another trip to London protecting international air travelers, his day begins.

He starts to receive mysterious texts from someone on the plane advising him that unless $150 million is transferred to a bank account, a person aboard the plane will die every 20 minutes.

The problem: Bill has a rep with TSA. His personal problems, though years old, still haunt him and the alcohol abuse is well known. For those reasons, no one gives a second thought at the TSA when it’s revealed that the bank account the money is supposed to go is one the established off shore.

Eventually he’s forced to reveal his identity to a few people on the flight, including Jen (Julianne Moore) the woman sitting next to him.

But the revelation serves as a way to serve up red herrings in the process of unraveling his nemesis’ identity as Marks slowly picks away at the mystery as if it’s a scab.

That is the fun of Non-Stop. Collet-Serra crafts a flick where the audience will forever be guessing. Add to the mix the aura of claustrophobia he creates and that just enhances the experience.

But this is Neeson’s film and he gives a performance light years beyond the machismo presented by many actors in action flicks. Occasionally, a moment of doubt flickers in Marks’ eye as to who he is.

That in itself is worth the price of admission, but Non-Stop is an intelligent thriller that packs in the fun and the action.

Movie: Non-Stop
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Corey Stoll
Studio: Universal
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references.
Running time: 106
George’s rating: 3.5-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com