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Movie review: 'Non-Stop'



Liam Neeson is one of those actors most moviegoers have come to expect certain things from when they watch one of his movies. While some actors have a certain comic style, or often play a romantic lead, Neeson has become a staple in the action film genre, usually playing a man haunted by his past or having family problems, and who also has some mad skills with a gun and his fists. But while some of his recent movies have been a tad predictable (“Taken 2”, anyone?), Neeson’s latest film, director Jaume Collet-Serra’s “Non-Stop”, takes a ridiculous premise and turns it into a thrilling, twisty whodunit—with some signature Neeson touches, of course.

Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) and Nancy (Michelle Dockery) look for suspicious passengers
Universal Pictures

Neeson plays Bill Marks, a U.S. air marshal who is about to board a trans-Atlantic flight to London when the film opens. It’s obvious from the get-go that he has personal issues, as he reminisces about his daughter, drinks heavily, and smokes a lot. Everything seems to be going smoothly, until in the middle of the flight Bill receives a text message from a mysterious number, claiming to be a passenger on the plane who knows Bill’s true identity and threatening to kill someone on the plane every twenty minutes unless $150 million is transferred to an account. Bill loses control of the situation quickly, as it comes to light that the bank account is in his name—that, combined with his troubling past, quickly causes Bill to be accused of hijacking the plane, as he continues to do his best to try to save it without the aid of the captain or the TSA.

The suspense is palpable from the beginning, as Collet-Serra focuses on all the different people boarding the plane, creating potential suspects before the action has even started. And once it does, the twists and turns come fast and fierce. Just when you think someone seems too suspicious to be a suspect, think again. The story takes common themes from similar films and turns them upside down, so it is rarely certain who can be trusted or what is going on. But perhaps the most unpredictable and interesting part is that the bad guy is trying to frame Bill, and actually does a good job at making it look like he is a psychotic terrorist—plus it’s a good story tool, making finding the real terrorist a much harder job since no one is on his side. The way the film is shot also enhances the suspense, as the film’s fight scenes—and actually, many of the movie’s scenes in general— are filmed in close-ups and medium shots, creating a sense of claustrophobia and the feeling that they really are trapped in a small space.

Neeson is a great tough guy as always, even if his character really does come off as a little unhinged at times. The supporting cast is rounded out by Julianne Moore’s Jen, who sits next to Bill on the flight and is the only person who trusts him, as well as Michelle Dockery and recent Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o as flight attendants Nancy and Gwen—and a host of paranoid passengers.

While the mystery is a pretty solid one, that doesn’t mean the story doesn’t veer into the realm of the ridiculous at times. Fortunately, it’s more amusing than annoying, as Bill persuades the unruly passengers to take their seats by promising them free flights for a year and catches his gun in slow-motion in the climax. Unfortunately, the big reveal and the reason behind this whole plot doesn’t all add up, leaving some plot holes in an otherwise decent movie—but that doesn’t make the ending any less satisfying.

Non-Stop” is the kind of film that is simply enjoyable popcorn fare, but it does succeed in engaging the audience in the mystery. It’s also the kind of movie that makes me hope that Neeson continues to star in fun films like this one, as the flawed but ultimately unstoppable hero—and no, I am not counting the upcoming “Taken 3”.

Runtime: 106 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality, and drug references.

Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:

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