A former police officer from New York City, Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is a Federal Air Marshal who's been at it for years. After some family troubles years before, Marks struggles with the job, drinking heavily to the point his coworkers are aware of it as well. Boarding a six-hour flight from NYC to London, Marks is ready for whatever could be thrown at him...until now. An hour or so into the flight, he starts to receive ominous text messages from an unknown sender. His threat? Unless $150 million is deposited in a bank account, someone on board will be killed every 20 minutes. It has to be a joke, right? How could a killer get away with it? What could their escape plan be? Marks isn't sure how to proceed, but with the clock ticking, he's working against time. Can he find the supposed killer before he strikes?
I'm going to be honest here. When I first saw the trailer for director Jaume Collet-Serra's film, I will....I'll say, less than enthused. It looked exceptionally goofy, even dumb, in wasting a premise that sounded like it could be pretty cool. Now all that said, a local theater shows movies for $5 on Tuesdays so....yeah, I gave it a shot. 'Non-Stop' ends up being a lot of fun, taking advantage of a simple, straightforward premise. A killer on-board a plane? How could he possibly plan on getting away even if his plan somehow succeeds? At 106 minutes, it's basically the perfect length -- not too quick, doesn't overstay its welcome. The style is there, texts popping up on-screen as Neeson's Air Marshal interacts with the terrorist. With the exception of a quick introduction and the closing scene, the entire movie plays out on the plane as it flies across the Atlantic, almost like a stage play. Above all else, it is entertaining. It's fun, and sometimes that's all you need.
Another chapter to the Liam Neeson Badass chapter has been written. As I've written before, I'm a big fan of Mr. Neeson no matter the part, but I love him in these more commercial movies more than the more dramatic period pieces. It's like picking pizza though. There's not really bad pizza, just less good. Neeson was cut out to be an action star. It just took years to figure it out whether it was the Taken movies, The Grey, Star Wars, Unknown, and now here in Non-Stop. His grizzled Bill Marks is worn down, beaten up and struggling with alcoholism, but through it all, he still knows how to do his job and do it well, even when it seems he can do no right. Now in his early 1960s, Neeson for lack of a better description is a badass. It's fun to watch him on-screen, especially in ass-kicking mode. His weathered face, his gravelly voice, it all adds up and in a good way. Likable, believable and a hell of a good action star.
One of the biggest selling points for 'Non-Stop' for me was the catch. With a story like this, you know there's going to be a big twist, a big reveal, something that lays it all out there. There just is so deal with it. Here, the premise is a whodunit? Who is the person behind the diabolical plot that threatens to claim the lives of 150 people on-board this commercial airliner? Everyone in the supporting cast is a possible suspect so that's part of the fun. Can you piece it together before the big reveal? I had an inkling, but I couldn't peg this one. For starters, look for Julianne Moore as Jen, the fellow passenger who needs a window seat and ends up next to Neeson's Marks. Also look for Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Linus Roache, Nate Parker, Corey Stoll, Anson Mount, and Omar Metwally among others as assorted passengers and crew on-board who may or may not be working with the Air Marshal to find out exactly what's going on. Shea Whigham also makes a quick appearance as an agent on the ground communicating with Marks. It's a fun group with some solid variety. I was kept guessing until the very end as to who was behind the plot at 30,000 feet.
And then there's the reveal. I didn't love it, but it's a realistic ending so that's a win in itself. I was worried about some ridiculous, far-fetched twist coming out of left field. Thankfully, that never comes to fruition. So while I didn't love the ending, I didn't hate it each other. It was getting to the finale that's pretty cool. We see the responses, the contingency plans, the technology available from texting to filming video with a phone, all how it affects Marks' situation that gets progressively worse with each passing moment. This is a good, old-fashioned thriller with some nice modern touches. Uncomfortable, full of tension and adrenaline, with a lot going for it across the board. An easy movie to recommend.
Non-Stop (2014): ***/****