Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy
Genre: Action/ Thriller
US federal air marshal Bill Marks (Neeson) boards a flight from New York to London and things seem to be going as per normal until on his secure line pager he receives a message stating that every 20 minutes a passenger on the plane will die unless $150million is transferred to an offshore account. So begins a relentless investigation by Marks to uncover without causing alarming who is sending these messages. After a carefully manipulated turn of events lead to the first death, it is then revealed the offshore account is actually in Marks’ name. Those on the ground now believe he is the terrorist, and unable to fully trust a single person (passenger or crew) on the aeroplane, Marks’ faces a race against time to uncover the true identity of someone who is permanently one step ahead of him and clear his name and save the lives of all those onboard.
Since Taken, the now in his 60s Liam Neeson being increasingly typecast as the brooding action hard man is certainly one of the least expected trends. There is no denying that his brooding intensity and hard stare give much needed gravitas to what are essentially shoddy B-movie plots. A part of me was hoping that the absolutely horrific mess that was Taken 2 was the end of that, but as it made a lot of money that was not the case. Thankfully this time he has ditched the leather jacket, but is more intense and miserable than ever in Non-Stop. At the start of the film we see him constantly sighing and looking depressed as he mopes around an airport and downing whiskey and staring at his reflection in a mirror. The troubled protagonist with demons is one of the many genre clichés that Non-Stop seems to not even want to avoid. However Taken 2 this thankfully is not and Non-Stop does surprisingly have plenty of genuine tension and thrills for a very entertaining but far from pulsating thriller.
Though the premise and setup are far from original, during the first two thirds there is genuine mystery as Marks tries to uncover the identity of the terrorist. Collet-Serra increases the claustrophobic tension with some great camerawork and Marks’ increasingly desperate attempts to uncover the identity of the terrorist provide more questions and revelations making it impossible to trust anyone, even Marks. There are some genuinely well written developments and twists that certainly engage and provide genuine intrigue.
Neeson has of course got world weary hard man down to an art form and does what he can to give us a troubled protagonist to care about despite having a personality made up of predominantly lazy clichés. Though Julianne Moore is pretty much on autopilot (no pun intended); her character is more of a convenient accessory for the needs of the plot and not particularly well written, but the rest of the supporting cast are on good form even if they sometime verge on stereotypical caricatures. Despite its use of well worn clichés, with an increasingly intense Neeson keeping it all together, for these first two thirds Non-Stop proves to be a genuinely gripping genre film.
However, it is then unfortunately in the final third where everything plummets (literally). We then have some narrative developments where I was thinking “I hope that does not happen. Sigh, it has just happened.” These include a painfully cheesy puke inducing moment of personal redemption, a ‘rousing’ speech with accompanying building music that has the most clichéd dialogue imaginable (it is more unintentionally funny than anything else), an embarrassing slow motion moment that is in the trailer and some coincidental moments that are perhaps a little too convenient and lazily written.
I must confess that the final revelation as to the identity of the antagonist is a genuine surprise but their reasons for doing it are really ill thought out, unconvincing and a tad lame. Thankfully we have Jason Butler Harner’s plucky English co-pilot to demonstrate the stereotypical stiff upper lip that we English only actually have in American blockbusters to deliver some unforgettable and slightly random, but very amusing lines of dialogue. Despite this it is an ending that only descends into anti climax that almost completely ruins everything.
Though being very much a genre film containing the usual clichés, for the first two thirds Non-Stop delivers some genuine thrills and tension that are almost completely undone by some lazy writing in the final third. With Neeson doing what he does best it is still watchable enough but a frustrating case of wasted potential. Still a vast improvement on Taken 2 though!
I really, really hated Taken 2, if you want to see my review/rant click here