At this point, doesn't Liam Neeson seem way overqualified to be an Air Marshall? It used to be that he had a particular set of skills, but now it seems that he has every set of skills. If they ever did a celebrity season of Survivor, I'd put my money on him to win it all.
Bill Marks (Neeson) is manning a non-stop flight from New York to London. He's an apparent alcoholic, which seems to be a common character trait with flight films recently. This all comes into play later though. Shortly after takeoff, Bill receives a series of text messages saying they will kill someone on the plane every 20 minutes if $150 million isn't wired to an account.
He initially has everyone's cooperation, but it's found that the account is in Bill's name. This points all fingers and suspicion his direction, because I guess everyone believes Bill is dumb enough to hijack a plane and use an offshore account in his own name. You'd think that would be enough keep him in the clear, but his past and personal demons cast a cloud of doubt. Bill is desperate to uncover who's really behind this, with few people he can trust.
Non-Stop has an interesting enough premise and actually does a good job of building tension. Though it's all pretty standard thriller stuff where you are thrown constant red herrings. It seems that everyone has some kind of distracting character trait giving a reason to think they are the mastermind.
I found many of the characters annoying and rude enough that I entertained thoughts like maybe they should just shoot the plane down. As they board, you see the kind of self absorbed behavior that makes people hate flying and people in general. I was surprised they didn't have someone with a anxiety dog with them. Many refused to follow directions, while demanding they had the right to know what's going on. Nobody ever seems to consider that maybe it's best they don't know what's going when there's potential hijacking risk. Maybe you're guy he's looking for, so why should he tell you anything? Anyway...
The bigger problem is when we get to the conclusion it's wildly unconvincing and borders on the ridiculous. It's the kind of ending where they went too far out of their way to have an "original" motivation for the bad guys. It would have been a bigger twist if they just had basic goals in mind. Complexity isn't a requirement for a good thriller; you can still be relatively straight-forward. Why can't it just be about the money? Why do their actions have to make a statement?
There's also a terrible quick-cut, shaky-cam fight during this climax, which was a shame because earlier there's a fight that takes place in a bathroom stall that I thought was shot really well. More than a few things happen towards the end that had me shaking my head at how far-fetched they were. It's a shame the end subtracts so much.
Really the only reason to watch Non-Stop is for Liam Neeson. His commitment lends credibility and makes you take the film more seriously than if another actor had been cast. You get the wrong guy as your lead and you have another Passenger 57 on your hands. The rest of the cast is a waste, which is a shame because I love Julianne Moore and Corey Stoll. Stoll, in particular, was criminally underused. Fresh off her breakout role in 12 Years a Slave, Lupita Nyong'o has a small role, but isn't asked to do much either. I didn't even realize it was her at first. Only Michelle Dockery stood out to me, as she's the only person besides Moore that has much face time with Neeson.
Here's one weird nitpick. At one point, Liam Neeson puts his hand on the seat in front of him and there's a close up shot of his hand. It's a totally unnecessary shot, but the weird thing about it was that the close up was very likely of a hand model. If you notice his hands in any other scene, or pretty much any movie he's ever been in, you can tell the hands and nails didn't match at all. This isn't a knock on Neeson, as he's the kind of rugged man's man that wouldn't get a manicure. It wouldn't fit his character either. Just a weird shot since there was no need for it at all.
Non-Stop is a serviceable thriller that's watchable mainly due to the presence of Liam Neeson. It's the kind of forgettable film that's best enjoyed if you don't think about it too much. If you're all caught up on your Oscar flicks, and have nothing else to do, there are worse ways to kill two hours. I'd recommend saving it for rental though.
2.5 (out of 5) Death Stars