Before we begin, let me just say that I like Liam Neeson a lot. He’s got true charisma, a commanding presence and he can act tough without coming off ridiculous. I think he’s perfect action hero, and Hollywood obviously figured that out a little late in his career. Despite my feelings about Mr. Neeson and how awesome I find him, I’ll never understand why he repetitively keeps signing on to star in films where his “Taken” persona is planted into a ridiculous situation. I have loved the action genre all my life, and I know it is supposed to be harmless and fun, but simply remaking the same movie and having one actor play the same character gets exhausting after awhile.
That idea is actually too bad, because “Non-Stop” actually features a fairly unique idea for a plot. Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks, a United States Air Marshall who is mysteriously contacted by a stranger onboard a plane to London. The stranger instructs Marks to transfer $150 million to an off-shore account and if Marks doesn’t meet the demands, a person onboard the plane will be murdered every twenty minutes. That is actually a great idea for a thriller and a cool idea for an action movie. I will say that as a thriller, “Non-Stop” works for the most part. I love that the entire movie takes place on one set, and that for nearly all the running time, it never switches scenes. Had “Non-Stop” been less of an action movie, and featured a stronger, more mature script, I probably would have ended up loving it. Sadly, the old action movie clichés come fast and furious in this movie. Right down to a scene involving the bad guys finally revealing themselves, then proceed to go into monologue mode as they talk away their entire plot and the reasoning behind it. At that point, I almost wanted to roll my eyes and turn it off, but I had to finish what I started, no matter how much lunacy it featured.
I think Liam Neeson does exactly what he was instructed to do in the film. I also think that he tries extra hard to make us care about the film and its plot. For the most part he succeeds, but we have to remember that this is a persona he’s recycled for the last five or so years, and nothing he did in this movie was surprising. I also think Julianne Moore, who shows up as a passenger on the flight, does what she can for the movie. I think she is the real actor who was able to give this film a pulse. I found her character motivating and I wanted to learn more about her backstory, which she sells to a tee. I could not help but feel disheartened that “Non-Stop” had a cast that included Cory Stoll, Lupita Nyong’o, Scoot McNairy, and Nate Parker, yet fails to use them in any sort of intelligent or creative way. Did you like Miss Nyong’o in “12 Years A Slave?” Yeah, I sure did too. So I was quite disappointed when all she happens to be is an extra with several scenes. What a waste.
The biggest problem I had with the film comes from the text within the script itself. Remember above when I was discussing the bad guys revealing themselves, as well as their motivation for such an act? Well, their whole plot is so closely tied to 9/11 that I found the inclusion of that incident in the story to be dumbfounding and disrespectful. I don’t mind movies about 9/11 and I don’t mind when artists express their feelings about what happened that day. I also don’t mind movies about conspiracy theories revolving that event, because those ideas would certainly make for interesting movies. But the way “Non-Stop” tries to shoe-in 9/11 anxieties felt very disgraceful. If you still harbor sadness from that day, I’d strongly suggest that you skip it. I also have to point out that there was a particular stereotype thrown into the film that offended me greatly. It isn’t used a whole lot in the film, but they point it out once or twice. But the point is that it is there and it rubbed me wrong. In my life, I have met many people who believe that every, single soul who is born in the Middle East is automatically a bad guy because of their birthplace and skin color. That is obviously foolish and bigoted. It’s movies like “Non-Stop” that sadly keeps those people talking. Is this going to be a normal idea in action movies now? Are we always going to throw in Arab actors into action films and political thrillers just so we can point at them and say they are the potential film villain? Are Arab actors going to be the center of a particular stereotype just like African Americans were in movies from the 1920’s until arguably the 1960’s? If that is the case, then I truly feel sorry for Hollywood.
The other big problem with “Non-Stop” is that I was able to predict the outcome before the movie really got going and that is never a good sign. Maybe that has to do with me and how many movies I watch, but if you ask me, I had the bad guys pinned down from the very beginning. It doesn’t help that the film follows the same guidelines as all thrillers these days. It is too bad, because “Non-Stop” could have been very unique and it could have been excellent. Sadly it is a film that wastes its talent, follows the simple clichés and features more preposterous action than I would care to discuss. It also happens to misuse the reflection of an event that some people may still be affected by and it is subtle about its border line racism. “Non-Stop” is a movie that takes itself too seriously and sucks all of the fun out its premise. What a shame.
FINAL GRADE: D