Article By: Dan Clark
There are very few times an actor can completely redefine their career quite like the way Liam Neeson has in the last few years. Ever since Taken in 2008 he has become middle age badass who punches wolves and kicks terrorists in the teeth. Somehow his presence can garner a great deal of attention for a premise that would otherwise be easily dismissed.
That is certainty the case of his latest film Non-Stop where he plays an Air Marshall attempting to rescue his plan from a mysterious hijacker. Unfortunately for Neeson, he couldn’t rescue this film from its messy plotting and gigantic leaps in logic. While there are moments of the Neeson many of us have come to love, even he feels out of place in this movie that is seemingly unsure if it is supposed to take itself seriously or not.
Neeson plays Bill Marks, an Air Mashall who hates flying and freely admits he is not a good man. He was a lousy husband, deadbeat dad, and is known to have a drinking problem. In other words, not the ideal man you want as your lone protector inside an airplane. During an overseas flight to London he receives a mysterious text message. An unknown passenger on the plan is threatening to kill fellow passengers unless $150 million is transferred into an off-shore account. Of course this threat is much more than it appears, and as Marks begins to unravel the mystery he seemingly falls deeper and deeper into a trap set specifically for him.
Setting your film almost solely on a plane does provide its fair share of benefits and drawbacks. There is inherent tension with the claustrophobic environment and the fact that only a few wrong moves could lead to massive disaster at 35,000 feet in the sky. On the other hand, complex storytelling is challenging as your resources are limited. Director Jaume Collet-Serra used the benefits to his advantage by crafting a movie that can quickly put you on edge. Watching that mystery begin to materialize was where the film showed the most promise. It gave you multiple avenues it could possibly travel down in an effort to keep you guessing.
To the films credit it stays vigilant by remaining inside the enclosed confines of the airplane. There are no flashbacks and barely any cutaways to the mainland. Once the plane takes off we remain with it until the conclusion. This choice provided an enhancement to the tension as the factor of the unknown hangs over nearly every action.
Marks is not as calm and collective as other Neeson antagonist. His aggressive demeanor leads him to act first and think second. Obviously this mindset provides its own set of challenges as he tends to make things worse instead of better. He has a flair for throwing accusations as well as throat punches. This behavior does become aggravating as it feels like cheap ploy to create a tense situation. It is as if Neeson is attempting to singlehandedly lift this movie up from being more than B movie shlock, but a plot hole heavy script consistently gets in his way. Moments like fight inside a suffocating bathroom intensely exciting , but the actions that led to it lack any form of rationale.
Having twists and turns inside a mystery is often necessary as it keeps you on your toes. The key is to provide legitimate reasoning to tie all those twists together. Non-Stop commits that fatal sin of having twists for twist sake. What promise it had quickly dissipates into a pile of the utterly ridiculous. When the motivations behind this elaborate set-up are revealed everything quickly falls apart. These motivations are both baffling and incoherently explained. It sacrifices good story telling in favor of over the top set-pieces that are only mildly enjoyable.
When you are going to see a movie the likes of Non-Stop you are obviously not expecting high art or a well-crafted film. You are hoping from cheap thrills and unabashed entertainment; however it could not fully deliver on those limited expectations. Non-Stop may provide some unintentional humor and dumb fun, but in comparison to the other films in Neeson’s career resonance this is assuredly near the bottom.