Friday, April 4, 2014

Non-Stop Movie Review

It's true that not all of Liam Neeson's movies have been good, but he's the sort of actor who has such a powerful presence that he effectively makes movies better when he is in them. Clash of the Titans for example was pretty bad, but seeing Neeson as Zeus and hearing his line "Release the Kraken!" made the whole thing worth it. He's very good in action movies, and while Non-Stop (2014) wasn't the greatest movie, it was made much better because Neeson is in it.
Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is a former cop who took to drinking to cope with his daughter's death. Now working as an air marshal, he boards a transcontinental flight from London to New York. Once the plane is over the Atlantic Ocean, Marks gets mysterious texts on his secured network phone demanding that he instructs the government to transfer 150 million dollars to an off-shore account. Until he secures the money, a passenger on his flight will be killed every 20 minutes. He fails to get help from his fellow air marshal (Anson Mount), he enlists the aid of a passenger Jen Summers (Julianne Moore) and flight attendant Nancy Hoffman (Michelle Dockery) to help pinpoint the who is the threat. As the situation becomes more complicated and Marks resorts to more unorthodox measures, passengers begin to suspect that he is the one hijacking the plane.
Liam Neeson is of course great in this movie. His delivery is spot on, his presence on screen is powerful, and his accent is as endearing as ever. Neeson brings enormous conviction to his late-career action roles. He's a fairly large person and moves his big body through the confined spaces of the airplane with so much power you'd might expect to see him rip out the seats. I have no doubt that delivering his line (shown in the trailers) "I'm not hijacking this plane. I'm trying to save it!" is going to go down in Neeson History like so many of his other memorable and dramatic lines.
On the other hand, most of the other cast members were wasted on what is otherwise a mediocre script. Julianne Moore is a great actress who has been in several outstanding films; that said, why give her such a weak role that could have been played by just about anyone? Her role would have been a perfect shot at a big for an up and coming actress. The same could have been said of most of the rest of the cast as well. In fact, Lupita Nyong had a small bit role as a flight attendant, even after winning an Academy Award for 12 Years a Slave. She IS an up and coming actress; Non-Stop is in fact her only other movie role. It still seems like her remarkable skills were wasted on a bit role here.
The story is pretty good for a mystery-thriller. Having a death threats issued on an public airplane is pretty scary. The idea of an airplane hijacking after all the security measures that started after 9/11 is all the more unsettling. The plot devices used in Non-Stop resonate with viewers pretty well, which makes for an interesting movie.
The movie is not without its flaws, though. My biggest pet peeve with "whodunnit" sort of stories is when we are given virtually no hints as to who has actually done it. When we finally get the big reveal at the end, it's completely out of nowhere and there's no way that we could have reached the same conclusion on our own. There's a brawl between Marks and another passenger in one of the airplane's lavatories; I don't see how anyone the size of Liam Neeson could even fit into one of those lavatories, let alone fight with someone else inside of one. It's a tense scene, but a bit difficult to believe. One of the killings remains unexplained. We understand clearly how it happened, but not by whom or when. In fact, this one murder is developed in such a way that there is effectively no way it could have happened, but the movie quickly moves on to other plot twists and hopes we didn't catch that detail.
Non-Stop is a fun movie that was made even better by Liam Neeson doing what he does best: glaring and growling through tight spots and effectively making the movie less preposterous by his mere presence. He elevates an otherwise B-movie thriller into a decent enough tense action movie. The acting is good, even if the material was occasionally sub-par. The action was great and makes for tense movie. The ideas thrown around by the plot are verisimilar and will likely strike a chord with audiences.  I enjoyed Non-Stop for what it was. I think it's worth seeing, but worth waiting for on DVD. It didn't seem to gain much by being on the big screen. It might even be worth owning an inexpensive copy of to pull out on occasion for a fun movie night that doesn't require a whole lot of thought and effort to watch.

What is your favorite Liam Neeson role? Comment below and tell me all about it!

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