March 26, 2014
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Starring Liam Neeson & Julianne Moore.
Directed by Juane Collet-Serra. PG-13
His name may not have the same action-hero ring as “Willis,” “Norris” or “Stallone,” but 61-year-old Liam Neeson has carved a pretty successful niche for himself a one-man kick-butt machine.
Those other stars might have more brawn, but the “everyman” personas of Neeson’s characters, pushed to their limits physically and psychologically but always finding ways to overcome, connected with audiences in movies like the 2008 revenge thriller “Taken,” its sequel, and “Unknown.”
Now, working again with “Unknown” director Juane Collet-Serra, Neeson stars in “Non-Stop” as a stressed-out federal air marshal on a six-hour transatlantic flight, once more a rumpled, crumpled underdog, this time grappling with a plane-full of life-or-death stakes high above the clouds. Just after take-off, his character, Bill Marks, gets a cryptic cell-phone message: Unless he arranges for an immediate transfer of $150 million dollars, people on the plane will begin to die, one at a time.
And eventually, something even more catastrophic will happen--and it’s all been rigged to look like Marks did it.
Who sent the message, and others that follow, taunting Marks, spelling out the devious details? It’s obviously someone else on the flight, someone who knows him--and the heavy emotional baggage he’s carrying. Everyone becomes a suspect, and the guessing game is part of what keeps the movie--otherwise contained in the closed, confined space of the airliner--moving along at a brisk, breathless clip.
No one is above suspicion, including Marks’ overly (?) friendly seatmate (Julianne Moore); two flight attendants (Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary Crawley on “Downton Abbey,” and Oscar-winning Lupita N’Yongo from “12 Years a Slave”); a Middle Eastern-looking doctor who practically has “TERRORIST” stamped on his kafi; a mild-mannered school teacher (Scoot McNairy); and a computer programmer (Nate Parker).
There are twists, turns, some cheesy laughs, a serious tussle in the lavatory, a murder by improvised peashooter, and a rip-roarin’ finish that had one woman seated behind me whooping, gasping and hollering “Save the baby!!!”
The specter of 9/11 hangs over the plot in more ways than one, but this isn’t a movie with much of an agenda beyond being a high-flying, B-grade thrill ride that takes you up, shakes you up and sets you back down when it’s over.
So don’t’ buy a ticket to “Non-Stop” looking for award-winning performances or a profound message (although it clumsily, hurriedly tries to tag one on at the end). As the captain tells Marks at one point, just sit back, buckle up and “Enjoy your flight”!