While on a transatlantic flight, air marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) receives threatening text messages (from a passenger on the plane) stating that someone is going to die every 20 minutes unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore bank account. With the help of fellow passenger Jen (Julianne Moore) and flight attendant Nancy (Michelle Dockery), Bill tries to take control of the situation. However, this becomes difficult when the series of events leads others to believe that Bill is hijacking the plane.
Non-Stop is the latest film in Liam Neeson’s post-Taken career as an action star, which has him reuniting with director Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown). Even though Non-Stop tries very hard to be portrayed as a straight action thriller, it is a film that is almost impossible to take seriously. There comes a point in the film when Bill Marks tries to calm down irate passengers by offering them free flights and the delivery by Neeson makes the scene unintentionally hilarious. It almost seemed like the film was going for a Snakes on a Plane vibe, complete with the plane being filled with various stereotypical character types. However, unlike Snakes on a Plane, there is not really any winking at the camera and the behaviour of the passengers generally comes off as cringe-worthy.
Out of all the films from his recent action phase, Non-Stop feels the most like a paycheque movie for Liam Neeson, who is almost starting to be a parody of himself. Julianne Moore is almost wasted, with her character only coming into focus to have moments with Neeson. In fact, British actress Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) almost seems to have more screen time. The film also features a number of familiar faces showing up as passengers or staff on the plane, including Scoot McNairy (Monsters), Corey Stoll (House of Cards), and recent Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave).
If there is one smart element of Non-Stop, it is that it has one of the best uses of on-screen graphics representing text messages, something that has become a trend in recent years. Of course, these on-screen graphics include a few unnecessary sight gags, which contributes to the overall groan-worthy tone of the plot.
While some may see a certain camp value to Non-Stop, it is time that Liam Neeson seriously starts thinking about the direction his career is heading.