Liam Neeson has real presence. I think that’s part of why I like him so much. He has this uncanny ability to get you to take him seriously, no matter how far-fetched the movie surrounding him may be.
Such is the case with Non-Stop, Neeson’s latest far-fetched but thoroughly entertaining action flick.
Neeson plays Bill Marks, an Air Marshal who starts getting threatening text messages in the middle of a transatlantic flight. He determines that the texter must be on the plane with him, and takes it upon himself to find the culprit. This becomes more complicated when the passengers’ suspicions are aroused as Marks’ methods become more extreme, and more and more evidence starts to point to him as having something to do with the whole situation.
The text messages appear as little word balloons, kind of like in a comic book. The director, Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously directed Neeson in Unknown, has some fun with this visually. When the plane shakes, the texts shake. When Marks’ concentration falters, the texts get blurry. When he reads texts from a broken cell phone, there’s a big crack down the middle of the word balloon (that also helps to conveniently censor a bad word).
I really liked this effect, it provides a little variation, since reading all those texts up on the screen runs the risk of getting boring after a while, and for me it enhanced the realism of the whole scenario by helping to put the viewer in the characters’ shoes.
The review of the movie in my local paper said it was generic, but I don’t agree. Well, I kind of do, but not really. The whole “hunting for a terrorist” thing has been done before, sure. And there are some clichés about Neeson’s character (he’s an alcoholic whose daughter died of cancer when she was like eight and he wasn’t around because he was always working, and later he has to save a little girl from being sucked out of the plane and it’s kind of like he’s vicariously saving his daughter blah blah blah). And there are some missed opportunities (recent Best Supporting Actress winner Lupita Nyong’o is also in the movie, although she gets barely anything to do, which is a shame). And the big villain reveal was a little underwhelming.
But despite these flaws, I still really liked Non-Stop. For the most part, it really kept me guessing, and the suspense was palpable throughout. Of course it goes without saying that Neeson gives a good performance (despite the aforementioned clichés) and there are good supporting performances from Julianne Moore as a passenger and Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery as one of the stewardesses.
And I find it impossible to dislike any movie where this happens:
Interestingly, almost the entire movie takes place on the plane, which provides a limited perspective. We discover things along with the characters, since there is no outside perspective. I’d imagine that a one-location movie like this isn’t easy to pull off, but in my opinion the filmmakers did the job admirably. There are also some nice touches to remind the viewer that this is all happening on a plane, like the omnipresent hum of the plane’s engines in the background.
The movie is kind of a midair murder mystery, like if Agatha Christie wrote a book that took place on a jetliner. So yeah: really good movie, despite some flaws. It gets The Zombie Room’s seal of action-movie approval.
A word of warning: if you have a fear of flying, you should probably not see this movie. Seriously, between this and The Grey, I’m starting to think Liam Neeson should avoid planes entirely.