Non-Stop Review

The Plot

A world weary US Air Marshal has his transatlantic flight interrupted by a text message from an anonymous source threatening to kill a fellow passenger every 20 minutes unless $150 million is paid into a designated account.

The Good

Transformed by the astonishing box office success of Taken, Liam Neeson has been enjoying a spectacular career reinvention as an action superstar. Armed with a towering 6’4” physical presence, gruff no-nonsense voice and blistering fists of fury the 61 year old Oscar winner has rapidly redefined himself. With Unknown, The Grey and the inevitable Taken sequels Neeson has emerged as one of the most bankable bad guy beating action heroes.  Non-Stop continues to exploit that winning formula in a predictable but mostly satisfying fashion.

Neeson’s Non-Stop character makes sure to incorporate all the typical elements of his successful action roles. As usual he’s a troubled father using ruthless skills and uncompromising determination to single handily overcome massive odds to rescue the imperilled. As expected, he’s also routinely betrayed by those around him whilst battling inner demons and faceless adversaries. It may be familiar, but it’s also an entertaining guilty pleasure.

Liam Neeson has a rare gift for delivering dialogue with a combination of unashamed intensity and self-aware irony. As an Oscar winning dramatic actor ‘slumming it’ in genre clichés he takes full advantage of understated comedic tones, following occasionally clunky dialogue with a deadpan stare or a knowing smirk.  Regularly punctuating any dangerously quiet moments of audience reflection with a ruthless piece of action also serves him well. They’re well-timed punches to bad guys and boredom.

The Bad

Non-Stop sets up an interesting premise with its claustrophobic mid-air setting but soon faces a difficult task in maintaining that simmering paranoid tension at boiling point for a feature length story. Inevitably the film quickly finds itself required to resort to increasingly unlikely plot devices to perpetuate the action. It’s ultimately impossible for the film to deliver a resolution which is inventive and original enough to be entirely satisfactory.

Julianne Moore plays ‘female lead’ alongside Neeson, but it’s a purely functional role that fails to inject any convincing emotion or drama. The character feels like a massively missed opportunity, particularly during the film’s lengthy hunt for the criminal mastermind hiding in plain sight amongst the 150 passengers.

Beyond Neeson and Moore the film does also feature a few familiar from the cast of Downton Abbey and House of Cards, but sadly they serve as little more than set dressing. Given two dimensional roles with only minimal unsatisfactory dialogue they do little more than populate the plane. It might be a crowded flight but it’s a crowd lacking in depth, drama or personality.

Ultimately the film could have easily injected more paranoid doubt into audiences’ minds, without being solely reliant on Neeson’s frantic response to anonymous threats and a few lazy plot twists.

The Ugly Truth

Without Liam Neeson Non-Stop would certainly have crashed shortly after take-off, but thanks to his innate charisma and weary workmanship it remains a watchable addition to his growing catalogue of guilty action genre pleasures. A welcome distraction in particular for any fans eagerly waiting for Taken 3.


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