Review: Non-Stop

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Liam Neeson continues to assert himself as one of cinema’s greatest action stars with Non-Stop, a murder mystery disguised as “Die Hard on a Plane”.

Neeson plays US Air Marshal Bill Marks, with a tragic past, an alcohol problem and a grizzled outlook on his frequent flights.  He’s definitely from the John McClane school of heroes.   On a plane going from New York City to London, Marks starts getting threatening text messages on his cell that claim a person on the plane will die every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred to a bank account.  Marks needs to figure out who on the plane is sending the messages and threatening the plane but things start lining up that makes it look like he is the hijacker.  Like classic mysteries, there’s no shortage of suspects and the movie does a pretty great job of making every equally shady and doling out clues and red herrings at a steady pace.  The ultimate goal of who is actually behind the plot is a tad murky and disappointing but the way to that ending is incredibly fun for armchair sleuths.

Besides Neeson, the other main cast member is Julianne Moore as Jenn, Marks’ seat mate and possibly his only ally on the plane.  The rest of the plane is filled out with character actors like Jason Harner, House of Cards’ Corey Stoll, Scoot McNairy, Hell on Wheels’ Anson Mount and recent Best Supporting Actress winner, Lupito Nyong’o.  No one is exactly a fully formed character but they all do a good job of being shady and possible suspects.

Non-Stop is definitely more tense than action packed but there are a couple of really well done fight scenes and the end (which was seen in the trailer) has a pretty bad ass moment involving the brief zero-g created by pulling out of a dive.  The cramped interior of the plane is a perfect location for the situation to slowly boil over as the the passengers get more paranoid and the bodies pile up.  The movie stays in the plane for basically the entire movie as well.  One of the things that I thought was incredibly cool was how the movie illustrates the text messages.  They get highlighted in a pop up graphic on screen and the graphics reflect what’s going on whether turbulence is making it hard to read or, at one point, Neeson is looking at a semi broken phone and the graphics for the texts are all distorted with the crack visible.  It’s a really cool effect that’s been used in things like Sherlock but this kind of takes things to a next level.

While still not quite up to the level of Taken, Non-Stop is definitely one of the best movies in Liam Neeson’s action career.  If I were ranking them, I would probably put it third or fourth overall and it’s definitely a fun action mystery to check out either at the theater or at home.

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