Liam Neeson’s reinvented himself as an action hero kicking ass and taking names in each year’s first quarter. Non-Stop is his latest effort, in which he plays troubled US Air Marshal Bill Marks who has to save the passengers of a transatlantic flight from a mysterious texter threatening to end a person’s life every 20 minutes. It’s an effective and for the most part well-executed premise, but the film’s main flaw is its central performance, which makes the film lose steam fast.
Marks is another one of Liam’s tough lawmen, a man of few words, barking orders in a gruff voice and using excessive force whenever the option arises. He’s an alcoholic to boot, but because he talks a scared young girl into a plane we’re supposed to root for him. It doesn’t work: Neeson’s portrayal lacks charisma, isn’t compelling because the actor looks like he’s bored all the way through the movie, and we’re not given the time to warm up to the Marks character. It’s actually the supporting actors who keep you invested in the film: Julianne Moore is wonderful as a passenger Neeson decides to trust, Michelle Dockery does solid work as one of the flight attendants and Linus Roache exudes authority and warmth in the few scenes he’s in. These are just a few examples because, apart from Neeson, the entire cast does the absolute best with the parts their given, which in most cases are small and really not developed all that well.
But let’s be honest, no one’s watching Non-Stop for the quality of the acting, action and intrigue is what we want. Well, Non-Stop‘s central story works well: Bill Marks’ search for the anonymous terrorist is well-paced, cleverly constructed and contains some striking twists and turns. During most of the film you’re in good hands, but it’s the last act where the material falters: the big reveal disappoints and Non-Stop goes out with a whimper. The action, unfortunately, isn’t all that great either: there’s one thrilling fight scene in an airplan lavatory, but other than that Neeson mainly just drags some people from their chairs and pushes them around the plane. There are some more elaborate action scenes during the last strech of the film, but they’re hard to follow and underwhelming because of the infamous shaky cam technique. An action film fan’s dream Non-Stop is not.
Despite adequate direction, writing, and a great supporting cast, Non-Stop fails to deliver genuine thrills: Neeson’s uninspired turn makes the entire film forgettable. 5/10