First thing’s first, it has to be done: *Insert Taken on a Plane* joke here. Okay, with that out of the way, other than being an action movie starring Liam Neeson, there’s not really much similar here to his recent “get his kidnapped daughter back and take revenge” success. Though, being a Liam Neeson ass kicking vehicle, it probably inhabits the same niche and will appeal to the same crowd.
A post-9/11 air marshal, and less than perfect person, Bill Marks (Neeson) is on his way from NYC to London, doing his first class duty once again. The flight becomes anything less than routine though when Bill himself is hijacked through a series of mysterious text messages threatening to start killing off passengers unless demands are met. To make matters worse, through complicated circumstances, Bill himself is soon labeled as the hijacker by those on the ground as well as most of the ones in the air he is trying to protect.
Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, and Lupita Nyong’o all appear, though mostly in underutilized roles.
From the outset, it’s obvious that the audience is being guided and manipulated in the most obvious ways. Bill clearly has some personal demons he’s dealing with as evidenced by his alcohol consumption and unpleasant phone conversation with his supervisor. He’s also a little too observant, maybe even paranoid, and we’re told we must be too as we see through his eyes – everyone in the airport looks suspicious, especially that black teenager and the brown skinned guy with the religious head covering. He must have a soft spot though – he’s kind to a little girl.
There are two main sources of tension in this film – Bill not knowing who he can trust, and everyone else not knowing if they can trust him. As the audience, though, we know he’s not the villain. There are too many calculated circumstances to make it look like that could be a possibility. And so with that tension gone we’re left with joining Bill in his frantic search for answers on a cramped plane where people keep dieing despite (or because?) of his efforts.
So much of the tension, along with the plot, is so contrived that the back of your seat rarely gets to breathe. There are a few “oh, maybe it was him/her” moments, or times when you are left wondering what just happened, but at the same time, you don’t really care. It doesn’t really matter if Julianne Moore turns out to be the secret villain, or maybe it’s that quiet flight attendant (Nyong’o) who has something to hide. Perhaps it’s that kid who keeps taking cell phone videos. It never really feels like it matters because in the end, Liam Neeson will find them and will kill them, right?
In the same way that Taken bothers me, Non-Stop plays out too systematically and too calmly despite frantically shoving reasons to get excited in our faces. Neeson never exudes much urgency even if he’s going through the right paces. From one obstacle to the next, the story flies along at a leisurely pace. Instead of the imposed time limits creating dread, each time the minutes are up, it’s almost comical. Also, there’s very little real action here, though what exists is well executed.
What we have here is plane full of mostly unlikeable people all needing to be saved by a guy who’s not all that friendly himself in a contrived situation full of plot holes. Despite being rather bland, I didn’t hate it and I’ve seen worse films, but if you need your Liam Neeson fix, go see The Lego Movie again instead.
Mrs. Hamster says:
“I thought it had good tension, but at the same time was just unbelievable enough to make me not scared to get on a plane (unlike Flight which was too realistic).”
My rating: Two out of five hats
Non-Stop flies into 3,039 theaters, February 28