‘Non-Stop’ a fun, bumpy flight

By Frank Ruggiero (frank@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Mar. 6 | Modified: Mar. 6
‘Non-Stop’ a fun, bumpy flight

Liam Neeson stars in 'Non-Stop.'

Liam Neeson and his very particular set of skills are back, but this time, it’s not personal; it’s on an airplane.

From director Jaume Collet-Serra (“Unknown”), “Non-Stop” is a taut thriller from above that offers all the Neeson excitement we’ve come to expect from his recent crop of PG-13 actioners. Unlike its counterparts, however, about 99 percent of the action takes place within the claustrophobic confines of a commercial airliner.

And while this premise doesn’t quite reach its full potential, it still makes for a fun, bumpy flight.
Neeson (“Taken”) stars as struggling air marshal Bill Marks, whose bouts with alcoholism and personal tragedy have left him living only to work. His latest flight— an overseas journey to London — should be routine. Needless to say, it turns out to be anything but.

Soon after take-off, Marks receives an anonymous text message, informing him that if he doesn’t manage to wire $150 million into an unnamed account, someone on board will die every 20 minutes. It could be a bluff, but he’s not willing to take a chance.

Sure enough, times passes and so does a passenger, proving the threat is real and that everybody is a suspect, including Marks’s newfound acquaintance, Jen (Julianne Moore, “The Big Lebowski”), New York cop Reilly (Corey Stoll, “Midnight in Paris”) and flight attendant Nancy (Michelle Dockery, “Hanna”).

As the investigation intensifies, with Marks forcefully interrogating some of the more suspicious passengers, he, too, becomes a suspect, as the culprit’s bank account is revealed to be in the beleaguered air marshal’s name. Making matters worse, passenger-recorded videos begin to surface on the Internet, and the media soon spins Marks as its hijacker.

With the situation intensifying by the minute, and with the death toll mounting, Marks must uncover the mystery and clear his name, if the plane is ever to land safely.

While the trailers depict it as a straight-up action flick, “Non-Stop” is more of a murder-mystery thriller. But, to include a flight pun, when “Non-Stop” takes off, it doesn’t slow down, leaving audiences guessing up until the big reveal. The only catch is that the reveal, although surprising, doesn’t seem that big, and its message, concerning the illusion of safety furnished by the TSA, seems like more of an afterthought. Still, “Non-Stop” is more than just “Taken” on an airplane.

The film works largely because of Neeson’s dynamic, yet imposing screen presence, but the plane, itself, plays a major part. With it, we’re effectively put in Marks’s size 28 shoes, observing a sea of passengers who are mostly obscured by the seats in front of them. It’s a fantastic venue for a murder mystery and one that Collet-Serra and cinematographer Flavio Labiano (“Unknown”) use effectively.

“Non-Stop” isn’t great cinema, but it’s fun cinema. And, more importantly, it’s original. At a time when Hollywood is flying standby with remakes, reboots and superheroes out the wazoo, this alone is a welcome bump up to first class.

“Non-Stop,” rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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