Meanwhile – 25,000 feet below him – his daughter’s once again getting kidnapped. Academy Award nominees Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore star in the mile high action-thriller Non-Stop.

NST_31_5_Promo_4C_4F.inddCast of Characters:
Bill Marks – Liam Neeson
Jen Summers – Julianne Moore
Tom Bowen – Scoot McNairy
Nancy – Michelle Dockery
Zack White – Nate Parker
Kyle Rice – Jason Butler Harner
Jack Hammond – Anson Mount

Director – Jaume Collet-Serra
Screenplay – John W. Richardson, Chris Roach & Ryan Engle
Producer – Joel Silver, Andrew Rona & Alex Heineman
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references

Gruff and worn-out U.S. federal air marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is on an international flight from New York to London. Things seem to be going smoothly, yet while Bill’s having a conversation with seatmate Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), he receives an anonymous text message telling him a passenger will be killed every 20 minutes unless $150 million is wired to a secret bank account.

And let the “Guess who?” game begin!

Racing against time, Bill must find out who, among the 150 passengers, is sending the texts before innocent lives are taken.

This is the annual Liam Neeson kicks someone’s ass film that’s been getting churned out of the assembly line since Taken. Full disclosure: I didn’t really like Taken. Yep, that’s right. I said it. Deal with it (Taken though is cinematic brilliance compared to its piece of trash sequel). However, Liam Neeson proved he can be a badass in a post-Taken era quality film with The Grey, which surprised me by how exciting and in-depth it really was. Regardless of whether I’d like to see Neeson give us another dramatic role like the number of ones he gave us back in the ’90s, this is what we’re getting, so take it or leave it. Plus, at this point, Neeson’s saved the Jews, broke Nell out of her shell, fought for his fellow Scottish villagers and Irish revolutionaries, trained Obi-Wan Kenobi, recommended Anakin Skywalker to Yoda, and trained Batman for God’s sakes, so if he wants to kick back and kick the crap out of some people, I say he’s earned it.

This is a pretty stupid movie. There’s no way around it. It seems to have at least one implausibility and plot contrivance for every single one of the 150 passengers on board, and certain moments are either not explained or explained poorly. There’s also a cute, little girl involved, so you know that means near the climax we’re gonna get the heart-tugging speech between drunk Liam Neeson and the girl about how she reminds him of his daughter and what she did to not be afraid.

But, you know what? I had fun anyway. It’s not The Usual Suspects by any means, but this film in all of its stupendously stupid glory had me engaged. Look no further than Neeson himself as to why. Even in an average film like Taken, Neeson goes all in. I don’t think he’s ever given a phoned-in performance in his life, even in his less-than-stellar works. That’s the quality of actor he is. The kind that puts as much earnestness into Zeus in those Clash of the Titans disasters as he does into Oskar Schindler. As Bill Marks, Neeson is an over-worked, alcoholic air marshal with some family troubles. It’s a familiar trope we’ve seen in characters before. You know, the “no one will believe me ’cause of my past issues” role. Neeson sells each character facet effortlessly, though.

That, and he could probably punch my teeth into the back of my skull if I said anything otherwise in regard to his acting.

The supporting cast is a mixed bag of goods ranging from effective to not bad, just not memorable. Julianne Moore is wonderful here and provides some much needed depth to a role that could’ve just been another throwaway passenger character. This is particularly shown in her explanation to Neeson as to why she likes to have the window seat. Downton Abbey’s (boy, they’ve been all popping up in films lately) Michelle Dockery is solid as a flight attendant who is fully aware of Neeson’s past as is Corey Stoll, playing the obligatory “I demand answers or I’m kicking your ass!” defiant passenger, who feels he’s earned the right to be that way ’cause he’s a cop.

Lupita Nyong’o, on the other hand, is given hardly anything to do. It’s kinda funny that this film rolls out after her heartbreaking performance in 12 Years a Slave (which I’m hoping grabs Best Supporting Actress). At most, I think she has about 5-6 lines and they range from, “I can’t believe this.”, “Why is this happening?” and “What do we do now?” To be fair, though, I have a feeling she filmed this before 12 Years a Slave. At least that’s what makes the most sense.

What makes this film engaging is the middle act. While I didn’t jump out of my seat screaming, “Oh my God! That’s who it was?!!!!!” when the villain was revealed, part of the fun is the way writers John W. Richardson, Chris Roach and Ryan Engle believably turn everyone from Julianne Moore, dickhead cop passenger, the co-pilot and even Neeson himself into a potential suspect. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (who previously directed Liam Neeson in Unknown) knows how to elevate the suspense here, and really doesn’t wast any time in kicking things into gear (it has to be about 10 maybe 15 minutes in when Neeson starts receiving the texts). The result is a well-crafted whodunnit mystery.

Where the film falters, though, is the third act, which involves the villain finally being revealed and giving us their “This is why I did this!” speech. From there, the film begins to lose steam with the cleverness it showed in the previous act and just devolves into a messy excuse for a CGI plane crash. It’s fun to watch, yes, but you have to wonder why the writers would provide some cleverness to the middle portion of the film only to just cop-out at the end.

It’s a dumb film, but unlike other films this year where it’s dumb and – well, dumb, Non-Stop is dumb yet fun. Even at 61, Liam Neeson is a man that I would never wanna get on his bad side ’cause it would probably lead to my head being slammed into a sink. He gives a fully believable performance that’s accompanied by some nice supporting work. It’s a messy, crash-and-burn finale, but the first two acts compensate for it. If you’re up for some mindless, popcorn entertainment, this film will provide you with some decent fun at the theater this weekend.

I give Non-Stop a B (★★★).


3/3/14        What the Hell Were They Thinking?!
3/4/14        Benjamin’s Stash
3/5/14        2014 Oscar Recap
3/8/14        300: Rise of an Empire

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