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Liam Neeson takes on texting terroist in 'Non-Stop',
This review is from: Non-Stop (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet) (Blu-ray)
Let me begin by saying that Liam Neeson is one of my favorite actors – and as far as I’m concerned everything he touches turns to pure gold. He became a full-blown household name after his very skilful work in Schindler’s List, but in my book, he will forever be etched in my imagination as Qui-Gon Jinn from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Don’t get me wrong – he’s been apart of some historically terrible movies, including The Phantom Menace, along with films like Battleship, The Haunting, and The Nut Job. Still, Neeson’s best work outweighs the duds. And, even though his role in Non-Stop is far from memorable, he rarely ever fails to entertain.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown, House of Wax), Non-Stop stars Liam Neeson as Bill Marks – a U.S. federal air marshal secretly patrolling a commercial airliner from New York to London. Early into the flight, Marks is sent a text message over a secure channel from someone anonymously demanding $150 million – or someone aboard the plane will die every 20 minutes.
Originally believing it to be a prank from fellow federal air marshal, Jack Hammond (Anson Mount), it quickly becomes clear that the anonymous terrorist is not messing around when passengers are abruptly murdered. Matters turn even more bothersome when the mystery man behind the plot starts framing Marks – making it look like he’s the one doing the hijacking.
With only a handful of people to aid him, including a fellow passenger, Jen Summers (Julianne Moore) and a flight attendant, Nancy Hoffman (Michelle Dockery), Marks attempts to discover who is behind this elaborate plot – while also attempting to stop passengers from turning up dead. On this plane, though, everyone is a suspect, but when the occupants of the plane all end up having clean records, it makes it that much more for difficult to stop everyone from assuming that he’s the real villain.
Not unlike his portrayals in films like Taken or The Grey (where he is also no stranger to a plane), Liam Neeson portrays a cool and calm customer, proving again and again that he is a solid action hero and a complete bad-ass. More often than not, airplane films all look alike, but casting Neeson is a smart way to add spice to a role that only a handful of Hollywood actors have the power to contribute in such a confined film of this nature. He’s edgy, methodical, and disciplined beyond belief – and this film is successful because he’s in it. Sure, there are problems with the plot, but nothing that’s going to overly ruin the viewing experience.
In typical flawed hero fashion, the story begins depicting our protagonist as loving father – yet possible alcoholic. It’s never a good sign when an officer of the law goes to work after a big swig of hard liquor. Never the less, Neeson’s character is obviously trying to drawn his demons or sorrows – possibly even both. However, even despite the early cocktail, Bill Marks goes through the process of mentally documenting his surroundings, identifying passengers, and successfully helping a frightened little girl board a plan. Within the first 15 minutes of this film, you can tell that regardless of this man’s shortcomings, he can be the difference between passengers living and dying.
While there is very little wrong with the protagonist, the antagonist is a mystery until the climax, much like a Scream horror flick or even another airplane mystery, Executive Decision. Unlike the Scream films, there is no malicious sounding voice on the other end of the phone. Instead, viewers must settle for a text-happy passenger that would rather send in his demands rather than verbally jousting with the good guy. Understandably, it would be much easier to spot a guy talking on a plane than to pick out one of the many texters – yet it severely limits the emotional response when the villain is revealed. On top of that, the motive behind the ransom is rather unimaginative. At least in the Scream flicks, the killers always had a personal motive, which is not really the main case here.
The film is cut together quite nice by Jaume Collet-Serra. He spends a great deal of time focusing on multiple individuals to keep the audience guessing about who is behind the on-flight killings. Just when you think he’s about to be revealed, a minor swerve comes into play and starts the focus on another supporting character. Speaking of supporting characters, Julianne Moore and Michelle Dockery receive the bulk of the minor character most screen time, although neither really stands out in an acting capacity. Both are brilliant actors, but this is not the type of film that highlights acting ability.
Overall, Non-Stop is not unlike its title in the sense that the film is rarely ever slow-paced or uninteresting. To that end, you could easily say the film features non-stop action, even though the action doesn’t always come in the form of the usual “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality. Some scenes are more thrilling than others, basically depending on how much you care about certain characters when the time comes from them to bite the bullet. Regardless, there isn’t a bad thing to say about Liam Neeson’s portrayal and when this film hits home video – there will definitely be an open spot waiting on my shelf. Die-hard fans of Liam Neeson, and even causal action flick lovers, shouldn’t hesitate to devote their undivided attention to Non-Stop.