It may be hammier and cheesier than a deep-crust pizza pie, but Liam Neeson’s latest airplane action flick, Non-Stop, is a one-way ticket to mindless fun, says Simon Mernagh.
Liam Neeson’s post-Christmas action extravaganzas tend to oscillate wildly between the fantastic (Taken, The Grey, Unknown) and the not-so-great (Taken 2 ring any bells?), without much elbow room in the middle. With his latest springtime venture, he’s finally found his happy medium – dopey, unoriginal and entertaining as hell, Non-Stop is pure cinematic escapism.
It’s also a fairly ironic title, given that the film cut three times during the course of my screening. Also, spoiler alert; the plane does indeed stop – eventually.
Neeson plays Bill Marks, an experienced Federal Air Marshall with an absurd name and a drink problem. On board a routine flight to London from New York he receives an anonymous threat via his secure-network phone-pager gizmo (with buttons!) – if $150 million isn’t wired into his own account, a passenger will be bumped off every 20 minutes. Cue a claustrophobic 106-minute Agatha Christie-style whodunnit (or a whodundoneit) within an pressurised cabin.
Much like The Call, last year’s Silence of the Lambs-meets-Crimecall vehicle for Halle Berry and a ridiculous wig, Non-Stop doesn’t bother pretending to be anything grander than the sum of its parts. You’ve seen this a million times before – high-flying murder mysteries, alcoholics, screaming flight attendants, and Liam Neeson scowling at potential terrorists.
Neeson is apparently flying Character Actor Airlines, with a ton of recognisable red-herring supporting players on board to keep us scratching our heads. Could our mystery assailant be among the flight attendants (played by Michelle Dockery, aka Lady Mary of Downton Abbey, and Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong’o with a Grace Jones buzzcut)? What about his friendly, First Class company, the effervescent Julianne Moore? Perhaps it’s the hot-headed NYPD cop (House of Cards’ Corey Stoll), or the surly business commuter (Nate Parker), or the chattering tourist (Scoot McNairy), or even the grouchy co-pilot (Jason Butler Harner)? Is the adorable little girl hiding a glock in that teddy bear? Movie-goers can often predict plot twists based on casting, but Non-Stop sidesteps that particular trapdoor.
The third act revelation makes even less sense than the preceding madness, capitalising on blissfully nonsensical character developments and nutty lines of dialogue lurking in every overhead locker. It’s like a glorious concoction of Taken, Die Hard and Snakes on a Plane.
Besides the revolving door of recognisable faces, Non-Stop’s visual aesthetic is slick and stylish, with some incredibly cool lighting and colour tones aboard the flight. Text-conversation bubbles with the assassin sprout up here and there, lending a graphic novel feel to the action. Its self-seriousness doesn’t mask how stoopid this movie is, but it helps us admit we’ve had fun.
Hammier and cheesier than the most calorific pizza pie, Non-Stop is the cinematic equivalent of fast food – simple, reliably filling and obviously not a healthy option. Neeson is filling the ‘tired old man action hero’ shoes, which Harrison Ford is slowly outgrowing, and the Antrim-born actor is a more than capable fit. May those in charge of the upcoming Taken 3 take note: this is how you do it.
Non-Stop opens nationwide on Friday, February 28
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