Liam Neeson gives us more of the same in ‘Non-Stop’

By Ian Flanagan / Staff Writer

“Non-Stop”

Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore

Grade: C-

Liam Neeson’s newly rejuvenated career as an action hero continues with “Non-Stop,” a film that once again affirms his identity as an icon of badassery, but also makes it difficult to take anything else in the film seriously.  

Though its ambition is ultimately the film’s undoing, here’s the plot: Internally troubled Air Marshal Bill Marks (Neeson) embarks on a continuous flight across the Atlantic to London. Once in the sky, Marks begins to receive anonymous messages from someone claiming to be aboard the plane and threatening to kill a passenger every 20 minutes unless $150 million is wired to a specified account. 

What begins as a disarmingly agreeable whodunit is slowly voided by the simple fact that the film doesn’t care how it ends — revealing the secret villain and their murderous motivations are irrelevant. “Non-Stop,” on premise and Neeson alone, will put people in seats; beyond that, the film masks its box-office-sales-inspired apathy with predictable ridiculousness. This is one of the least rewarding film experiences in some time — all tease and no payoff.

Though it is all for naught, there is fun to be had before the nonsense kicks in. Neeson’s talent might be once again tragically reduced to brooding and shouting as his performance is diluted by a stock role identical to so many others in his recent more commercial films (such as the eerily familiar and equally disappointing “Unknown”), but he is always a captivating lead. It’s also somewhat redeeming that the first deaths promised by the film’s inconspicuous villain play out unexpectedly. With these deaths, the film promises through its grim photography and dour tone that this is all going somewhere interesting.

But alas, this movie offers more than it delivers, an almost unforgivable sin and a nasty flaw that eats away at your respect for “Non-Stop.” The film fuels its thin plot with a ceaseless flow of teases and cheap red herrings — few extras and supporting characters make it through the film without being shot as slightly suspicious — that may at times be clever in the moment but amount to absolutely nothing by the culmination. 

If the ending was simply lazy, it would be a disappointing conclusion to an otherwise decent film, but the motivations behind all the horror-movie-style theatrics of our antagonist transform the serious mystery of “Non-Stop’s” first hour and a half into preposterous rubbish. Not to mention the devastatingly ham-fisted political subtext provided by the clumsily devised script. The message is jarring, unnecessary and way too far from subtle to make the film appear intelligent. 

The film bears the aura of more compelling material and stays in the air on intriguing ideas alone, but not without the steady disappointment of slowly realizing that “Non-Stop” has no idea which direction it wants to go.

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