Non-Stop Review

Posted: March 13, 2014 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews

non-stop-poster

By: Michael “MovieBuff801” Dennos

We all know what the first rule of any Liam Neeson thriller is, right?  If there are any of you out there who might not be aware of that first rule, then allow me to enlighten you.  The first rule of any Liam Neeson thriller is simply: you don’t fuck with Liam Neeson!  And yet, all the bad guys in these different movies clearly didn’t do their homework, because they keep on breaking that first simple rule.  And given that repetition, such a formula has dried itself out by this point — and in my opinion, it wasn’t all that enjoyable to begin with when looking at the first Taken.  But now, along comes Non-Stop, a legitimately tense thriller that’s able to live up to its title.

Neeson plays Bill Marks, a U.S. federal Air Marshal haunted by a past tragedy who prefers to drown his sorrows in alcohol whenever he can, as is the norm for every main character like Marks in these types of movies.  Marks has just boarded a non-stop flight from New York to London, with all indications of it being a routine flight.  But not long after take-off, Marks starts to receive mysterious texts on his phone from an unknown person … an unknown person who’s threatening to kill someone on the plane every 20 minutes if they aren’t paid $150 million to a specific bank account.  Such a threat sobers Marks up enough to be on the lookout for suspicious activity, and he even enlists the aid of his seatmate (Julianne Moore) and a flight attendant (Michelle Dockery) to help identify potential suspects.  But it’s not enough, because precisely at the first 20 minute mark, the first murder occurs (in a fashion I won’t spoil), and suddenly, the stakes are raised even higher.  And Marks’ superiors are no help, because they all think he’s the one orchestrating the whole situation, which leaves Marks to make use of whatever resources available to him on the plane to stop the killer and figure out if there’s a deeper purpose at play rather than just a simple murder spree.  To make matters even worse, Marks must also contend with a crew of passengers becoming increasingly paranoid at his behavior.  Boy, Liam Neeson just can’t catch a break!

I seem to be quite a fan of thrillers set during airplane flights, as evidenced by my liking of movies such as Flightplan, Red Eye and now this.  On an airplane, there’s tons of potential for claustrophobic panic, something which Non-Stop takes advantage of.  I mentioned briefly how the film stays true to its title, and I mean it.  From the moment the plot kicks into gear, Non-Stop takes on a gripping tone which tightens its hold with each passing minute, and in a film like this, that’s the kind of thing I want to feel as I’m watching it.  Despite my feelings toward most of Liam Neeson’s action vehicles these days (I think they all bleed together, especially the characters he plays), I actually had some hopes for Non-Stop, and those hopes were fulfilled.  And let me tell you, I certainly found Non-Stop to be considerably more entertaining than both Taken movies combined.

On the acting front, Liam Neeson doesn’t really do anything new here compared to his many other action movie characters, but he at least brings some welcome conviction to the proceedings.  He effectively portrays the sense of rising yet forcibly controlled panic necessary for the character of Bill Marks to work, and we’re right there with him as he tries to piece together all the clues and stay one step ahead of his faceless adversary.  Plus, come on, it’s Liam Neeson.  So you know that when Marks needs to turn into a badass, Neeson is gonna be able to sell it with minimal effort.  He’s also the only one in the cast with the most material to work with in terms of character background and development, so there’s also that.  And again, while none of that may be anything new, the conviction that Neeson brings to it all helps in the long run.  Everyone else around him are essentially delegated to glorified bit roles, in the movie mainly to help further along the plot.  But you know what?  I’m okay with that, because those people are given just enough character material here and there to contribute to the list of potential suspects, and they’re all portrayed by more than capable actors — the “bigger” supporting players, at least.  Julianne Moore and Michelle Dockery each do solid work and are the most noticeable because they probably have a lot more dialogue than the other passengers and crew on the plane.  Speaking of, recent Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o is in this movie as one of the flight attendants, but I think she has no more than ten lines of dialogue throughout the whole movie.  Also, most of the other people on the plane are written … I wouldn’t exactly say as stereotypes, but more like typical filler characters for a film like this.

The director is Juame Collet-Serra, who previously helmed another Liam Neeson thriller, Unknown (remember that movie?)Like Robert Schwentke and Wes Craven before him, Collet-Serra finds effective ways to shoot inside an airplane environment while also making sure to ratchet up the tension with each passing minute.  There’s nothing that really stands out about what Collet-Sera does, but was anybody expecting groundbreaking direction in a film like this?  I thought not.

Now, Non-Stop does hit something of a speed bump in its Third Act.  I’m not talking about how the climax takes the action up to the standard over-the-top level (I didn’t mind that so much), but rather I’m getting at the explanation the screenplay gives for the motivation behind all the killings.  Without going into spoilers, it doesn’t turn out to just be the work of a murderous lunatic, but someone with a larger agenda.  And contained in that agenda is a message, a message that feels like it was tacked on just to have the story “mean something” at the last minute.  Well, why did it need to mean something?  The filmmakers could’ve just kept it a simple “stop the killer” story and it would’ve been perfectly fine.  The motivation just feels like extra baggage, in my opinion.

Despite that, Non-Stop still probes to be a solid B-movie.  All the areas in which it needs to work, it does, and works well enough to forgive any shortcomings the film may have here and there, providing quite literally for a pretty non-stop experience.

***/****

Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Michael. I honestly have no problem with Neeson making these types of movies anymore, just as long as they stay entertaining and actually good.

  2. Good review! I found this one to be entertaining and suspenseful.

  3. brikhaus says:

    Nice review, may be better than I had thought. It looked like the next Taken rip-off based on the trailers.

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