The tension packed action/thriller Non-Stop pits Liam Neeson against terrorists hijacking a plane, but the frantic pace of the film and general implausibility detract from its solid acting and unique premise. The film has several glaring plot holes and issues throughout, problems which Liam Neeson’s star power does not have the ability to redeem.
Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks, a federal air marshal who suffers from a drinking problem. He is scheduled to go on a flight to London from New York. After Neeson gets settled on the flight, he receives texts from an anonymous person asking for $150 million and threatening that otherwise someone will die every 20 minutes. While Neeson’s character tries to find the hijacker, everyone on the plane becomes more wary of him as the flight goes on. As he barrels through his frantic search for the hijacker, he must deal with the dissent among the plane passengers and the accusations that he has gone rogue and is attacking the United States.
The film is ambitious with its plot. While there have been hijacking films in the past, Non-Stop is the type of thriller where the audience is constantly guessing who the terrorist is and how he or she is capable of manipulating the events on the plane. The film analyzes how technology can change the nature of terrorism. With people being picked off one by one and the people on the ground less likely to comply with Marks’ requests, the film’s plot does an excellent job of building up anxiety and tension. With so much paranoia surrounding flights since 9/11, the topic consistently captures the attention of the audience.
The major draw of this film is Neeson. After the sleeper hit Taken was released in 2008, Neeson has become the epitome of the older, weathered action star. That film elevated him to incredible fame, and Non-Stop tries to bank off that film’s success. It makes no mistake in emphasizing that he is the major appeal of the film. He is featured predominantly in almost every single shot. Neeson’s performance mostly consists of barking at people and looking angry, which he capably complies with. His performance is not outstanding by any means, but it works. He is the vintage, hardened bad-ss that people expect to see in his films.
The film also builds up a talented supporting cast, led by Julianne Moore, Corey Stoll and Lupita Nyong’o. They are all victims on the plane, concerned onlookers who must deal with the potential of a rogue air marshal. They realistically convey a vast range of emotions, from concern to paranoia to anger. The supporting cast’s roles are fairly minimal, however, in order to incorporate as much of Neeson as possible during the film. Though they all play their parts well, the film’s shortcomings limit their ability to perform.
The major issue with the film’s plot is that it takes multiple turns toward the improbable. Drugs, firearms and bombs are just a few of the items that manage to be snuck onto this particular flight. And though this might be construed as an attack at the TSA, terrorists most likely do not come up with plans that require all three of these being successfully smuggled onto the plane. There is also one sequence in particular in which, as the plane loses its balance, Marks manages to somehow catch a gun in midair and fire it successfully at his target. The film relies heavily on coincidences and absurdity to propel the plot forward.
The pacing of the plot also struggles to find balance. The film is an action/thriller, but throughout the film, there is not much physical action or violence. Once in a while, Bill Marks will dazzle the audience with a special move that he must have learned at spy camp. But the majority of the film follows the formulaic pattern of Marks accusing someone of being the terrorist, then being wrong. The film jumps from moment to moment in rapid succession, never stopping to take a break. Once the film gets the ball rolling, it never stops. The tensions are never resolved, and audience members are forced to deal with higher and higher stakes without any breaks for the entirety of the film.
Non-Stop is not a bad movie. It can spark enough audience attention that some people will be utterly captivated as the plot unravels. The cast does an adequate job, but they do not have the talent or the skill to save the film from its pitfalls. The general lack of regard for plot holes and implausibility will leave many moviegoers shaking their heads as they walk out of the theater.