Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Corey Stoll, Lupita Nyong’o
Running Time: 106 minutes
Release Date: February 28th
Blame Taken. We whooped and hollered when Liam Neeson, Ballymena brogue and all, cut a bloody swathe through France back in 2008 but boy, we’re paying for it now. Taken‘s appeal was down to its sheer audacity. Here was the one-time Oskar Schindler breaking bones, executing without remorse and rattling off that speech like a bizarre Bourne/Terminator hybrid.
We laughed, we loved, we learned. Unfortunately, cult hits tend to breed rip offs and sequels and Neeson was up for both, snapping the neck of his newfound ironic mystique with the barren Unknown and the phoned-in Taken 2. Save for The Grey—arguably the most egregious example of a marketing department selling you a dumb action movie in place of a thoughtful, affecting work—he seems content to put his name to increasingly derivative schlock as he enters his sixties.
Enter Non-Stop and Neeson’s latest put-upon reluctant hero; booze-addled, cagey air marshall Bill Marks. On one fateful flight, Marks receives a series of untraceable text messages (warning: the insane overuse of his message alert will eventually make your skin crawl) demanding payment of $150 million or else a passenger will be bumped off every 20 minutes. Furthermore, Marks’ apparent alcoholism and hints of a tragic past make him the perfect fall guy for whoever is pulling the strings.
Kudos must go to Non-Stop for keeping the premise succinct and to director Jaume Collet-Serra for making the most of his environment—a bathroom scrap is very well put together. A shame, then, that what should at the very least a fast-paced, tense affair has all the urgency of a bowls match. Aside from some amusing furious text acting from Neeson, thrills are in short supply as Marks encounters a whole host of thinly-sketched red herrings in a confined space. There’s the nervous little girl taking her first flight alone, the easily-riled black guy, the pushy Noo Yawk cop, the overly-affectionate couple, the possible double agent, the it-can’t-be-a-coincidence figure and, of course, the softly-spoken Middle Eastern gentleman who the camera lingers on just long enough to make everyone feel uncomfortable. Oh, and Julianne Moore, who might as well sport different neon signs above her head with each scene she appears in.
As for The Big Reveal? Don’t worry about trying to make sense of it because the screenwriters didn’t either. Presumably several other drafts exist in which other characters are unmasked, Scream style, but this one tested the best. Still, it’s nice to see the likes of Scoot McNairy, Anson Mount, Shea Whigham and Corey Stoll get a Hollywood payday, even if they’re reduced to the most stock of characters. Speaking of which, Lupita Nyong’o, so devastating in 12 Years a Slave, is almost impressively wasted in a role that serves as a sporadic series of frightened reaction shots and nothing more. Nyong’o’s forgotten flight attendant is Non-Stop in microcosm; potential left to fall by the wayside.
Incidentally, the all-important hash tag to accompany the film is #NONSTOPNEESON. The joke goes that such a title could only yield wildly entertaining results. Those who subscribe to such whimsy have yet to spend the guts of two hours on a plane with this version of an actor who should know better.