Friday 28 February 2014

Film Review: Non-Stop

A claustrophobic and entertaining action/thriller, Non-Stop is now boarding; starring born-again action star Liam Neeson (Star Wars Episode I: Phantom Menace, Taken) and Julianne Moore (The Big Lebowski, Crazy Stupid Love), this film is a goofy, entertaining ride that is a surprising amount of fun.

Set predominantly on a long-haul flight from New York to London, Neeson plays a US Air Marshall held to ransom by a mysterious person texting his secure phone.

The terrorist threatens to kill someone every 20 minutes unless his demands of $150 million are met. Cue mid-flight entertainment of the less conventional, gun-pointing and fist-fighting kind as Neeson works his way through the passengers, attempting to uncover 'whodunnit'.

Having previously worked with Neeson before (on 2011's mediocre thriller, Unknown), director Jaume Collet-Serra knows how to handle the ageing Irish action star. In Non-Stop, Neeson is great, his typical gruff, determined character (named Bill Marks) suiting this kind of movie down to the ground.

Alongside Neeson is Julianne Moore, a secretive fellow passenger who befriends Bill before the shit hits the fan (or plane turbine heh). Her fairly tough character, coupled with the lingering suspicion she's in on it, makes Moore another gripping character.

There are handful of other passengers who take to the limelight at one point or another - Michelle Dockery's flight attendant Nancy and Scoot McNairy's jittery nerd-type Bowen round off a supporting cast that is littered with potential culprits.

The big issue with Non-Stop is that, like most thrillers, the most interesting aspect is the tense, nail-biting first half where the intrigue is introduced and the creepy meter is dialled up to 11. Who did it? When? How? Where? All these questions fly around the audiences head, not unlike the snazzy Sherlock-esque visuals of text messages flying around Neeson's.

As Marks makes his way through the potential terrorists, you find yourself wanting to scream "It's her! She did it!" or "that slimy bastard, get him Qui-Gon!" The numerous red-herrings that Collet-Serra drops only deepens the intrigue and absurdity of it all. Of course, half of what takes place aboard the plane is complete fantasy, and would never happen in real-life, but that's what this movie does best.

Like the Taken series, or even the Expendables, Non-Stop is a fun, corny, generic, stylish thriller that works best when considered as pure escapist, popcorn-munching cinema. Just sit back, unplug and let the film sucker you in. It does half-attempt to form some kind of political comment on 9/11, air safety and terrorism paranoia, but these elements are thinly written to say the least.

In the end, the conclusion is a bit of a let-down, with a reveal ill-fitting of the tense first half of the movie. (Insert pun regarding the film 'hitting turbulence' here heh heh). This doesn't mean I left feeling unsatisfied however; I still enjoyed this movie very much, with guessing and second-guessing who the culprit was being a real hoot. Neeson was a definite plus, as were Moore, Dockery and McNairy. If only the film had been able to maintain its altitude throughout.

The Verdict: 6/10

With a tense, well-structured opening half, Non-Stop builds enough intrigue to keep the audience hooked through the more generic and implausible finale. Like many thrillers, the build up is always more satisfying than the pay-off, but the likeable lead and slick direction, make Non-Stop an entertaining escape for a couple of hours.

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