An angry Liam Neeson is a fun Liam Neeson, and “Non-Stop” gives the brawny Irish star a chance to snarl and flex his might at 37,000 feet.
In a career as varied as they come, Neeson has lately become comfortable as America’s leading action star. Go figure. From “Schindler’s List” to “Taken,” Neeson proves time and again he can do just about any role… and do it well.
“Non-Stop” is nothing but entertaining; a locked-room mystery combining elements of Agatha Christie and “Air Force One.” Neeson is Bill Marks, a United States Air Marshal suffering from one too many ailments. He’s an alcoholic. He is bereft of his dead child. He is lonely. And he is afraid of flying. Yes, that’s a plot device in “Non-Stop.” Liam Neeson is an air marshal afraid of flying. (Better monitor those air marshal entrance exams more closely.)
Mid-flight from the United States to London, Marks receives a text on his closed network claiming someone on the plane will die every 20 minutes unless oodles of money are wired into a private bank account. As we’ve seen in “Taken,” “Taken 2,” “The Grey,” “Unknown” and “The A-Team,” Liam Neeson knows better than anyone that nobody messes with Liam Neeson. So, off goes Air Marshal Bill to reveal the killer. Time is up and someone dies but the kicker is all evidence points to Marks as the killer. With every subsequent 20 minute mark, Bill Marks’ innocence is further questioned, making the situation rather awkward as he becomes the prime suspect in his own case.
“Non-Stop” works well because it creates its own set of outrageous rules within its insular world and adheres to them. The story is rather implausible, but who cares? Suspension of disbelief is required and the quicker you can accept that the more enjoyable “Non-Stop” will be.
The mystery is fresh and provides plenty of surprises. The who-dunnit formula never become stale and no secrets are revealed too early on, thus threatening the surprise. However, the outcome is rather disappointing. Once the mystery is solved a rant is inserted featuring some poor attempt at explaining motivation. It is superfluous and nonsensical. The journey and mystery are exciting, not so much the destination.
Julianne Moore is quirky passenger Jen Summers, a Dr. Watson to Neeson’s Sherlock Holmes. Both aware they are not in an Oscar-contending movie, Moore and Neeson relax and have fun with their respective roles, which in turn considerably raises the entertainment level of “Non-Stop.” They banter, flirt and kick butt together. An odd action pair, for sure, but they are outrageous fun.
Joining Moore and Neeson are “Downton Abbey’s” Michelle Dockery (in a considerably less stuffy performance than Lady Mary) and “House of Cards’” Corey Stoll. Also keep an eye open for Oscar-nominee Lupita Nyong’o as one of the stewards.
“Non-Stop” is an entertaining flight with taut direction by Jaume Collet-Serra (“Unknown”), and a hard-boiled script by Chris Roach, John W. Richardson and Ryan Engle. Just stow your cynicism and carry on an open mind. Plus, this is angry Liam Neeson doing what he does best.
Universal Pictures. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 1 hour and 50 minutes.