Saturday, March 15, 2014
Non-Stop is an efficient and effective thriller that appears to be what we want from Liam Neeson these days. Neeson plays Bill Marks, an air marshal first seen adding liquor to his coffee cup before reporting for work. If you've seen the trailer then you know what happens soon after Marks boards a transatlantic flight: a series of anonymous texts threatens the killing of passengers at 20 minute intervals unless Marks can arrange a 150 million dollar payment. The rest of the movie is an Agatha Christie story at 35,000 feet. Marks must sift through a finite number of suspects (including another marshal played by Anson Mount) while at the same time clearing his own name after he learns he's being framed. There's an above average cast on hand for all of this, including Julianne Moore as a seatmate who seems too interested in what Marks is doing and Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) as a flight attendant on the marshal's side. Non-Stop raises the question of how much trust we should put in those taking care of us on planes. While Marks struggles to maintain control of the flight the passengers are deluged with news reports of his drinking and unhappy past, and the passengers' own texts and videos become part of the story. There's an explicit reference to 9/11 that I'm not sure needed to happen but there's enough going on that it doesn't stand out, and the presence of passengers played by Corey Stoll (as an NYPD officer) and Omar Metwally (as a Middle Eastern doctor) results in a bonding moment that for once doesn't feel forced. The villains are unmasked and their reasoning arrives in a rush, but that's always a hazard in a movie like this. The real pleasure of Non-Stop is watching a bruised and vulnerable Liam Neeson fight his way to the truth, and his success doesn't require a full-body scan.