“Am I in your way a** h**e?” may have just replaced “yippee ki-yay mother***er” as my favorite movie phrase. Thank you, “Non-Stop.”
Taut, explosive and surprisingly well-done, “Non-Stop” is everything you want from an action thriller and more. Star Liam Neeson has described the film as Hitchcockian. That’s going a tad too far, but “Non-Stop” is highly entertaining and keeps you on your toes throughout.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, with screenplay by John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach and Ryan Engle, “Non-Stop” stars Neeson as Bill Marks, an air marshal working a non-stop flight to London. It’s not a good sign when before boarding the plane we see him mixing alcohol with his coffee. As he strolls through the airport, he definitely gives off an attitude while scanning the surroundings for possible threats. He seems to soften only when helping a young girl traveling alone face her last-minute fears about flying. We’ve had earlier hints that something is wrong in his personal life and that it might center on a child.
Once the plane is in the air, Bill strikes up a conversation with fellow passenger, Jen (Julianne Moore),and seems to have an easy-going, collegial relationship with senior flight attendant, Nancy (Michelle Dockery). It’s when Bill begins to relax a bit that he receives an anonymous threat over a supposed secure phone line. The remainder of the film is spent trying to figure out who sent the message and why, and, of course, stopping the threat. This is the point when “Non-Stop” shifts into high gear and separates itself from other action movies…it has brains behind it. “Non-Stop” illustrates that on a plane you really come face to face with as a diverse group of people as one can imagine. When something goes wrong, everyone becomes a suspect and in turn suspects everyone else. The script handles this aspect to perfection and really has you guessing as to who the guilty party is. In Bill’s eyes and ours, almost everyone seems suspicious at some point…and with good reason.
What also makes “Non-Stop” better than most films in this genre is its actors—they can really act. Liam Neeson is always good in portraying a man of action with something seething underneath and this film is no exception for him. In addition to the scenes with the little girl, he really shines in his work with Moore and Dockery. There is also some terrific character acting from Corey Stoll, Linus Roach, Jason Butler Harner and Scoot McNairy. Recent Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o has a small role as a flight attendant. Filmed right after wrapping up “12 Years a Slave,” this is probably the last time we’ll see her in such a minor role. What is also refreshing about “Non-Stop” is hearing actors speak in their native accents. Since this is an international flight, no one is pretending to have an American accent…and doing it poorly.
The downside to “Non-Stop” is that you may start eyeing your fellow passengers more cautiously the next time you fly. But, at least in this film, the pilot isn’t an alcoholic, just the air marshal. In that spirit, go and enjoy.