Liam Neeson adopts his put-upon, perma-scowl face once more for another spin on his unlikely action hero status post-Taken; only this time he’s 30,000 feet above the ground in a solid but hardly spectacular thriller and Neeson’s second collaboration (after 2011’s forgettable Unknown) with director Jaume Collet-Sera.
US Air Marshall Bill Marks (Neeson), a deadbeat alcoholic with a troubled past who hates flying, is on a routine transatlantic flight when he receives a text message threatening that unless the sender gets £150 million deposited in an account of their choosing, someone on the plane will be killed every 20 minutes. From then on in everyone is a suspect as Marks races against the clock to find the blackmailer.
It’s very easy to make fun of Liam Neeson’s seemingly interchangeable roles of late. While the characters may all have different names, the basic plot and scenario is Liam Neeson Punches People To Save The Day and Non-Stop is no different. And although Neeson is as dependable as ever in this type of role (even if never he never truly feels engaged with the proceedings; the very definition of a paycheque movie), he can’t elevate what is at heart a rather dull narrative.
It starts off promisingly with Marks receiving the anonymous text messages while he – and we – try to figure out whodunit, with the on screen text messages a neat visual trick (ripped off from Sherlock but still fun here). And while the film plays with our perceptions reasonably cleverly with the first death after twenty minutes, after that it descends into ‘someone dies, Marks shouts at the passengers, thinks he has apprehended the culprit only for someone else to die.’ Repeat to end. The film wants to make use of it’s enclosed setting to create heightened tension and a sense of claustrophobia, and good directors can wring buckets of suspense out of a single inescapable location, but Non-Stop fails in this regard by being not just suspense-less, but criminally boring as well. When half the film consists of your lead character either texting someone or talking on the phone and we’re expected to find it exciting, something’s not right.
There are no memorable characters, just ciphers for Marks to bark orders at or to look shifty in the hope that we’ll suspect anyone and everyone. Aside from Neeson who despite his character being under, one assumes, a great deal of stress never once breaks a sweat, Julianne Moore is lumbered with literally a Just Another Passenger role (unless she’s the killer of course) and everyone else may have names but I’ll be damned if I can remember them. Even the eventual reveal of the killer is botched with justification so idiotic that if you think about it too hard doesn’t make a lick of sense, plucked from thin air as it is in an attempt to add some political relevance to proceedings.
The last act tries to add a little jolt of excitement with a extended action sequence but it’s too little too late for a film that for most of it’s runtime involves, you’ve guessed it, Liam Neeson shouting vague threats and punching people, in between scenes of furious texting.
A poor entry into the Liam Neeson action movie sub-genre. More Taken 2, than Taken.
Review by Jonathan Cardwell.
Thanks to our sponsors at the Odyssey Cinemas
Don’t forget to book your tickets for Non Stop at the Odyssey Cinemas here.