Liam Neeson’s career has probably never been better, at least financially. It’s also never been more dull. His new outing is Non-Stop, the latest in a string of movies where Neeson portrays a man better at doing things, whatever they may be, then you are.
This time Neeson is Bill Marks, an air-marshal with a drinking problem and a few other personal demons. Bill boards a plane for yet another flight, complete with booze and an argument with his superior about his work schedule. Once on board, all seems normal. There are slow-moving passengers, the guy who over-shares and somebody who freaks out about needing a window-seat. The plane takes off, leaves the States for England and halfway through the trip, Bill receives a text on his secure phone-line. The text is a threat, stating that someone aboard the plane will die every twenty minutes unless a lot of money is wired to a specific bank account.
From there, Non-Stop presents a series of could-be suspects as Neeson’s character yells in that gruff tone he has been doing since Taken. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who worked with Neeson on the mediocre Unknown in 2011, does what he can with a flat script. The tightness of the surroundings are well established. Each chunk of the plane feels appropriately siphoned off, with Collet-Serra making the tension rise and fall via keeping his cast’s acting on a boiling, though never over-the-top, level.
It’s one of those strange pictures where no scenes, at least until the last act, are particularly bad, but none are especially good either. The screenplay nicely presents the variety of suspects at first, giving us just enough details for each possibility to be intriguing. There’s the inquisitive frequent flier (Julianne Moore), an easily agitated cop (Corey Stoll), the new flight attendant (Lupita Nyong’o) and so on. However, the writing never develops any of the characters to make the guessing game of whose behind the scheme stay strong. It could be anyone because we don’t know who anyone is beyond the basest of sketches. With that the case, the final reveals are empty.
Neeson is dull here, doing the same thing we’ve seen him do on repeat for half a decade now. He plays the part as stern and loud, befitting the part, even as its tired.
Non-Stop opens wide all across Seattle tomorrow.