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Non-Stop a thrill ride

Liam Neeson settles into niche as action star

By: Scott Hayes

  |  Posted: Saturday, Mar 08, 2014 06:00 am

IN-FLIGHT MESSAGE – Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore deliver solid performances in the tense thriller Non-Stop.
IN-FLIGHT MESSAGE – Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore deliver solid performances in the tense thriller Non-Stop.
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Review

Non-Stop
Stars 4.0
Starring Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Lupita Nyong’o, Linus Roache, Shea Wigham and Michelle Dockery
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Written by John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach and Ryan Engle
Rated PG for coarse language and violence
Runtime: 107 minutes
Now playing at Cineplex Odeon North Edmonton and Scotiabank Theatres

I really like Liam Neeson and often I like his acting. The lanky Irishman seems to have diverted his career away from weighty stories like Schindler’s List to pure popcorn matinee fare. His recent filmography reads like the dimestore shelf at the video store: Unknown, The A-Team, Battleship, and Clash of the Titans.

Now, he’s back with Taken director Jaume Collet-Serra and they’ve set up a high-flying action drama that defies its title somewhat but still kept my interest thoroughly.

Neeson plays Bill Marks, a federal air marshal on a trans-Atlantic flight to London. He’s got keen eyes and makes note of lots of little details but his alcoholism and his moodiness might hinder his ability to fulfil his job somewhat. During the flight, he starts receiving strange text messages from a mysterious person who threatens to kill other passengers unless a ransom of $150 million is paid.

The problem is that no one seems to believe him. It turns out that the bank account for the ransom deposit is in his name. He comes across as irrational, even dangerous. The passengers start to think of him as a terrorist who is actually hijacking the plane. He doesn’t know who he can trust and no one knows if they can trust him.

This is a pretty great yarn actually. I don’t think that the trailer does it justice, however. It isn’t all action but rather more of a slow-burning fuse as the interest builds and clues unveil themselves, mostly thanks to Marks’ resourcefulness and keen attention to minute details.

Like I said, his acting is what holds the story together. His delivery, his presence … those are the kinds of things that make characters in completely ridiculous situations (like this one) as believable as they should be. It doesn’t take much for the audience to suspend its disbelief just for the sake of the story.

That crucial buy-in is aided by the always solid acting of Julianne Moore. New Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, however, is sadly underused in a minor role as a flight attendant.

We have to expect these kinds of movies in the post-9/11 era. The subject of security and trust are hot topics that will surely stay relevant for many years to come. Flight, the Denzel Washington drama of 2012, is another example of how these issues can provide excellent fodder for screenplays.

The sad thing is that this is exactly where Non-Stop gets mired down a bit. Characters don’t always need to expound on their philosophies in the middle of life-and-death situations. At least this only happens at the very end so it doesn’t ruin the whole movie.

Non-Stop is a really good whodunit that keeps details ambiguous as to who the real bad guy is until it’s actually necessary to reveal it. It seems like this might be the start of a beautiful action-based relationship between Neeson and Collet-Serra. Their next movie, Run All Night, comes out in 2015.


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