To my surprise, this weekend’s latest action thriller, “Non-Stop,” has more to offer than a quick glance at the trailer might suggest. Starring Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Corey Stoll, and Lupita Nyong’o, this film is complex and mildly intense, and gives the audience much to think about throughout.
In a time of the year when movie flops are on the rise, “Non-Stop” is simply an average, moderately entertaining mystery-thriller.
Almost instantly as the movie begins and Bill Marks (Neeson) prepares to board his airplane, you can tell that Marks isn’t your average joe and you get a feeling that something is looming. Marks appears to be watching everyone around him very carefully, noticing specific details that for whatever reason seems suspicious. After some introduction and quick dialogue with a few of the other characters on the plane, Marks makes his way to the lavatory, where he covers the vents with duck tape to have a cigarette and reveal a small pistol. Seconds later, he pulls out an U.S. Air Marshall badge and all of his actions up until this point now make sense.
These mixed feelings towards a certain character or event is the formula set forth in the film, as the audience is basically thrown into a game of “Clue” with trying to figure out who the bad guy is. After getting back to his seat, Marks receives a text message on his secure network from a person who appears to know every move Marks makes. The texter demands $150 million, or “he” will kill someone on the plane every twenty minutes. The remainder of the movie involves Marks trying to figure out who the culprit is, as reasons point toward several passengers, including him, who may or may not be guilty. All the while, the consequences continue to get more dire and the situation goes from bad to worse for Marks.
Actor Liam Neeson has long made his mark in film by starring in a variety of roles and more recently has established himself as a tough, kickass action star. When I first saw the trailer for “Non-Stop,” it appeared to be yet another mindless action thriller where Neeson plays the “good guy” getting caught up in a situation that he fights his way out of (as we've seen in “Taken” and “Unknown”). What I found in his newest film was a smart, in depth mystery-thriller filled with more cloak-and-dagger tricks than actual action or combat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite reach it’s potential and falls short on multiple occasions.
One of my favorite elements of this movie is the way it makes you think and the way most things are executed. With a plane full of people and no clear hints to go off of, it’s hard for the audience to trust anyone including Marks. You’re constantly trying to analyze everyone, and when it looks like a certain person is in the clear, further suspicions arise that make you second guess that person. Through the use of somewhat eerie music, freaked passenger reactions, a series of text message clues, and direct demands from the person causing all of the chaos, the culprit is revealed.
While parts of “Non-Stop” are enjoyable, other parts are missing in action. There is mild, dry humor present throughout this thriller, such as when Marks tells the passengers on the plane that if they will calm down, the airplane will pay for everyone to fly free for a year (clearly exaggerating), and it’s pretty cool to see the text messages pop up in a bubble on the movie screen for clear viewing. Also, there are multiple things happening at once, and while I believe most of this is executed fairly well, the environment and possibilities are limited. Being on a single story, medium-sized international plane, there are only so many places someone can hide or move around and get away with it. Similarly, with the security we have today, I’m not saying every movie has to be completely plausible, but I have a hard time believing all of the events that take place on this plane wouldn’t have been more regulated or prevented in the first place. Like most Hollywood films, this one is played up and dramatized for entertainment value, and for whatever reason comes off as less than ideal.
There are several parallels or ironic elements in this film, some of which can be named and some of which would give away parts of the movie. For instance, Marks has lost a daughter, who is not shown in the film, and ends up saving a little girl on the plane. There are some characters whose backgrounds lead them in one direction, then based on certain events, they end up redeeming themselves or making the wrong decision in the end. This film makes statements about the military, security in our country, and certain protocols that are followed that may have a positive or negative effect when put to the test.
If you’re an average moviegoer, you may just find yourself entertained by this one. Go see it for yourself this weekend.
Rated 2.5 out of 5
“Non-Stop” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references. Running time is 1 hour and 46 minutes.
Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance film critic and entertainment blogger out of Dallas. More of his content can be found on YouPlusDallas.com and his author archive here. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and hopes to pursue a future in filmmaking and screenwriting. As an average, passionate film lover who rarely misses a film, his reviews are straightforward and his way with words will let you know in a simple way what he thinks. Don’t like what he has to say? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt.