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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Action film is entertaining, average

    StudioCanal
    StudioCanal

    It may not be of the caliber of some of Liam Neeson’s recent offerings, but “Non-Stop” is nevertheless decently entertaining.
    Neeson reprises his role as a sympathetic everyman with a particular set of skills and the initials “B.M.” In “Taken” and “Taken 2” (and, hopefully, the third installment, which will inevitably be called ‘Tak3n’ or ‘Taken 3D’), he had the generic-sounding name Bryan Mills. In “Non-Stop,” Neeson finds himself playing Bill Marks, an air marshal who has the inexplicable quirk of becoming alarmingly anxious when a plane takes off. One would think an air marshal wouldn’t get the jitters. As we will come to see, Marks is a damaged man.

    On a direct flight from New York to London, he receives a text message over his encrypted network that says if $150 million is not wired to a bank account, someone on board the plane will die every 20 minutes. As the minutes go by, tensions increase and the film takes on the intrigue of a whodunit. Is it Jen (Julianne Moore), the woman who initially switched seats at the beginning of the flight and just so happened to end up in the seat next to Marks? Or is it Nancy (Michelle Dockery of “Downton Abbey”), the only stewardess who knows Bill is an air marshal? Or is it Gwen (new Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o), a new stewardess who was placed on the flight at the last second? Or is it all of them? Or none?
    “Non-Stop” has two elements that make the film work. Actually, “work” may be too strong a word; “function” is more appropriate. The first is the mystery of who is behind these cell phone messages. Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who also directed the 2011 Neeson action-thriller “Unknown,” does a great job of raising the audience’s suspicions about someone, lowering them and then bringing them back up again. There are twists and turns, and everyone’s in question up until the end.

    Neeson is the second thing the movie has in its favor; he’s a likeable and bankable action star despite being in his 60s. His characters are always unassuming and gentle yet not afraid to take on the role of “total badass” when push comes to shove. When he must rise to the occasion, earnestness and desperation inhabit Neeson’s every move.

    Of course, an action film of this caliber is going to have its ham-handed moments, especially if anything even remotely close to patriotism is brought up. The villain reveals their dastardly plan, and, in our post-9/11 world, the plan has something to do with proving that our advanced security measures don’t make us any safer, or how the America of today isn’t the America they want to be a part of. In order to save the country, they have to destroy it. This is as thin and clichéd a veneer of philosophy and character motivation that you’ll find. To the film’s credit, though, Neeson’s Marks responds to the villain revealing their plan by facetiously saying it would have been better to just hand out pamphlets.

    Not to mention, there is an conspicuously Middle Eastern character on board the plane. What a suspicious man! He must be up to no good. But, hark! As it happens, he’s actually a doctor, and not a terrorist after all! At the film’s climax, he even shares a tender moment with a retired NYPD officer. See, we can all get along if Liam Neeson is there to guide us.

    “Non-Stop” may very well be forgotten in a couple of month’s time. However, in his career renaissance as an action hero, Liam Neeson will always be the guy to root for and the guy to watch.

    Grade: C

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