Liam Neeson is getting all the action roles for actors 40 years old and up. Maybe not all of them (Sorry Costner), but he’s getting his pick of all the good ones. Why wouldn’t he? Neeson singlehandedly created a genre for midlife crisis action movies.
In Neeson’s latest AARP action role he plays U.S Air Marshall Bill Marks in the high altitude thriller Non-Stop. The trailer for Non-Stop birthed a few million “Taken on a plane” jokes – yes character’s initials are B.M, he does have a daughter, he is in a panic, he does have personal demons, and he’s got a special set of skills, but that’s as far as the comparisons to 2008’s Taken go.
In a transatlantic flight from New York to London, Marks’s (Liam Neeson) receives a text message on a secure line from someone demanding $150 million or someone will die every 20 minutes. How do you kill a person on a crowded flight? Marks doesn’t know, but when the killing starts, everyone on the plane is a suspect or potential victim. Marks spends most of his time frantically pacing down the aisles looking for suspects and tip toeing the line between harassment and helping. Out of the 150 passengers Marks’ has a few people to choose from. There’s his seatmate Jen (Julianne Moore), the Muslim doctor (Omar Metwally), the nerdy guy Tom (Scoot McNairy), the hardnosed New York cop (Corey Stoll), and the flight attendants Nancy (Michelle Dockery) and Gwen (12 Years a Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o).
As the situations turns into a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, the passengers learn a little more about Marks and his inner turmoil. It’s unclear to the passengers if Marks is trying to hijack the plane or save it.
For a film that’s as predictable as the 1st and 15th every month, Non-Stop is able to keep the tension pretty high for most of the film. Director Juame Colllet-Serra does a good job of making something on a long flight more terrifying than a crying baby. The action is above average with a few well choreographed fight scenes and a little gunplay which help keep the film grounded in some sort of reality. At a certain point too many gunshots on an airplane is just silly.
That’s not to say that there isn’t plenty of stuff that’s preposterous, because there’s a ton bad of action movie clichés like the film’s unsatisfying twist leading to the villain disclosing “why” in about 20 seconds. The reasoning is a bit of a head scratcher but what’s even more head scratching is how the text messages happened. How? It’s such a big part of the film and it’s never really explained. It doesn’t make any sense but most people will be distracted by Neeson repeatedly punching people while talking in a low growly voice.
Non-Stop is as ridiculous as it is fun. The film doesn’t work without Liam Neeson and his over 40 action star pedigree. He turned what should be a crappy film into an entertaining action movie that will have a glorious second life on basic cable.