Liam Neeson and his affinity for being in action movies wherein he beats the tar out of people has become a bit of a punchline in the film geek world, but a lot of that has to do with the way those films are marketed, especially after the surprising success of Taken, which was the ceremonial parade leader of the cycle. By and large, the movies are more interesting than they would initially appear. The Grey was one of the most gripping and depressing movies about survival and accepting fate and was certainly more than “Liam Neeson punching wolves” which is what we all expected (and secretly hoped for). This year’s Non-Stop is mostly the same; a tight thriller in the vein of Agatha Christie or Alfred Hitchcock that does feel the need to go action movie at the end. Is this a bad thing? Let’s find out.
Non-Stop, directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, has Neeson starring as Federal Air Marshal Bill Marks, an angry and disgruntled man who hates flying and is having a row with his boss. So clearly everything’s going to go his way. On an overnight flight from New York to London, Marks receives a text message via the secure Air Marshal network and after a bit of toying, the person asks for $150 million in the next 20 minutes or someone on the flight is going to die. Obviously, this cannot stand and Marks has to figure out who it is that’s threatening the passengers, and if the threat is even real. Eventually, a candidate, who is clearly up to no good, presents themselves and through very close quarters brawling with Marks, is killed. Except, this isn’t the one doing the threatening, and a new 20 minute cycle begins. To make matters worse, all the evidence points to Marks as being the perpetrator, or at least involved somehow. As the minutes tick by, and more and more people are lost, the odds of Marks losing his temper grow exponentially.
Like all good “Whodunits,” this movie has a lot of suspects, all of whom are recognizable in some fashion or other. You’ve got Julianne Moore as a nervous flyer who needs the window seat, Corey Stall as a gruff and easily irritated man, Scoot McNairy as a guy who’s a bit too friendly, Linus Roache as the pilot who may be setting it up to set it up, and Michelle Dockery and Lupita Nyong’o as flight attendants. Any one of them could be the hijacker. Or none of them could. The movie does a great job of keeping you and our hero guessing until the very end. Or close to the very end anyway.
My big issue with the movie is the climax, unfortunately, which goes from a very intimate and paranoid thriller on an airplane to a big huge action flick with gunfire, fistfights, midair maneuvers, and CGI effects that just kinda don’t look that great. It’s a shame the filmmakers felt they needed to go down this road with such a movie since it was going along very nicely until then. This is not to say the movie lost me entirely, it just had me a whole lot until then and delved into generic, and frankly pretty implausible, action schlock. The ending is a bit ham-fisted, but the rest of the movie is compelling enough for this not to spoil the whole experience.
The cast is all very good and perform very well in the very cramped (though obviously larger than an actual airplane) space. The majority of the movie takes place in this one set but it never feels small. The stakes are always there. Director Collet-Serra does a fantastic job actually getting action in such a tight space. It could easily feel like a play, not unlike Murder on the Orient Express, but it always feels cinematic, which is a feat. Again, the ending is a bit of a hokum bleh-fest, but the rest is great.
While the movie on Blu-ray looks and sounds phenomenal, and I’d highly recommend checking it out, there’s really no reason for you to buy it. Likely due to the movie being what it is, it’s almost completely bereft of bonus features. There’s a 7 minute EPK which gives a few spoilers, and there’s a big “Blu-ray Exclusive” which is just another 5 minute piece of EPK looking at different stuff. That’s it. No commentary track or anything. It’s very disappointing. I know that a lot of companies are moving away from putting things on disc because digital media is so much cheaper for them, but if they’re not even going to try to put anything of value on the disc, they’re fulfilling their own prophecy.
BOTTOM LINE: Non-Stop is another enjoyable Liam Neeson action/thriller and well worth a rent or a download.