Liam Neeson delivers again in “Non-Stop”

Photo by Frederick Dennstedt, via flickr

Rafael Abreu/Staff Writer 

Liam Neeson has proven himself to be a reliable source of entertainment, from playing men with particular sets of skills to historical figures to bad cops.

“Non-Stop” has Neeson playing Bill Marks, an air marshal with a drinking problem, who has to take a non-stop, six hour flight from New York to London. It’s during this flight when Bill receives threatening text messages telling him to deposit $150 million into an account, or else someone will die. From here on out, the threat only escalates to the worst case scenario.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra (who had previously worked with Neeson on “Unknown”) depicts everything clearly and with a good sense of style, sometimes using pans to show us around the airplane and cleverly utilizing the widescreen frame.

Throughout the film, Neeson is using his cell phone or checking the phones of others, and when we are not directly seeing the phone screen, the film displays the messages on the film screen, allowing us to see exactly what he’s typing and receiving. This allows for things to be happening, while seeing whatever Bill is seeing on his phone, sometimes immediate reactions when messages are received.

Another aspect I really like is how each character in the film gives the audience some sort of focus in the beginning before entering the airplane and has a significant role to play during the course of the film. Smaller things, such as Bill being a smoker or someone shooting video, also factor into the plot in ways you may not see coming.

For the type of movie “Non-Stop” is, the writing is generally solid. While it does border on implausibility, the more you think about it the further along it goes, the enjoyment factor is never decreased. If you stick around till the end, the reveal will treat you to an interesting perspective on an important topic.

However, this “important topic” is never fully utilized and only works as an excuse for why this plot exists. In fact, the reveal works as a good example of one of the film’s weaknesses. It’s not that the script is bad, but that not everything in it is taken care of the way it should be. For example, the script never fully states that the air marshal and one of the flight attendants know one another, but it’s eventually specified later on. Elsewhere, certain smaller things are either never fully wrapped up or expanded upon; but on the whole, everything makes sense and nothing major is left hanging.

The inclusion of Julianne Moore as Jen, a passenger who Bill confides in, can either be seen as typically wasteful or surprisingly useful. I’m going to go with the latter: Jen may simply be a passenger who doesn’t reveal too much about herself, but she successfully helps Bill out when he needs her. This could be seen as wasteful, since she really doesn’t do much else then be assistance and support, but to me, that’s still a lot more than what another film could have had her doing. It’s also nice that the before mentioned flight attendant, Michelle Dockery, who knows Bill, also helps out and provides a good amount of support throughout the film.

It’s nice that “Non-Stop”, while not spectacular, is entertaining without ever providing a dull moment. It kept my interest until the very end, and I think it will be a hit with Neeson fans and people who enjoy watching films with one another so they can comment on both the good and the bad. For a generic, February action movie, one could do so much worse.

rafael.abreu@fiusm.com 

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