non-stop-poster Non-Stop (2014)
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery
Running Time: 1 hr, 46 mins
Rated: PG-13

Review by Brother Reed

What about Non-Stop, though?

Non-Stop may have had the most effective advertising of any movie in recent memory. That Key and Peele tie-in sketch, for all its transparency, completely cemented the title of the movie in my consciousness. Now I haven’t actually loved any of these Liam Neeson tough guy movies, though I thought Taken was alright. Unknown and A-Team were completely forgettable. Still, there isn’t a lot of competition right now so I went out to see the conspicuously hyphenated Non-Stop, featuring the incomparable Liam Neesons.

This movie is passable Saturday night fare, and that’s really the best thing that can be said for it. Neeson plays a surprisingly sombre character, a drunken Air Marshal whose back story is composed of whiskey bottles, cigarettes and a gift for comforting young children. To the film’s credit it sets everything up with admirable efficiency. We get the gist of his character right away, and then throw him into a familiar high-stakes dilemma that borrows from a dozen similar thrillers. Julianne Moore is present as a sympathetic/suspicious passenger who ends up flying next to Neeson’s Bill Marks. The film scatters its cards and then slowly turns them over in a way that is neither completely predictable nor particularly satisfying.

Julianne Moore looking suspiciously hipster

Neeson is fine in it, of course, but he can’t prevent us from seeing a pastiche rather than an original action drama. His close combat skills rival Jason Bourne, but don’t feel important to his character the way they did in Taken. They’re there because he’s a badass and that’s what badasses do. All the side characters aside from Moore have so little to work with the film at times literally looks like a game of Guess Who?, with faces popping up from the packed airline seats just long enough to serve their purpose before disappearing again. And the post-9-11 material about security in America is such tacked on, last minute hooey it doesn’t even deserve discussion. This is not a movie about ideas, or at least not those ideas that don’t involve Liam Neeson snapping some guy’s neck. I can imagine a review in which that would be a compliment. This isn’t that review.

This actually happens. I’m not kidding.

Now, you won’t have a terrible time with Non-Stop. It kept me awake and paying attention, and undeniably some of the tropes it employs still work. There’s an optimistic scene in which Marks, who is being framed as the one hijacking the plane, lays out his situation for the passengers in an earnest speech, gaining their trust and enlisting their help. Only in the movie world would this be effective, but it speaks to us anyway. This is the world we wish we lived in, one in which we can all come together when times get rough and rally around a capable leader to make it all come out okay. I can extend the film some good will and agree to be the moviegoer who understands that, even if I can’t quite get worked up over it. It was nice to see recent Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o here and I’ll be looking for more roles from Michelle Dockery.

12 Years a Stewardess

I’ll give it this – the film’s red herrings are so numerous and its path so obscured that I wasn’t able to guess the identity of the perpetrator; but I also felt I probably wasn’t given enough information to do so. Perhaps someone will counter there are clues to be picked up on a second viewing, but I don’t think I’ll be running out to buy this when the Blu-Ray hits. I will, however, probably watch that Key and Peele sketch a few more times.