Published Feb 27, 2014You have to hand it to Liam Neeson: while the esteemed actor continues his unlikely transition to becoming everyone's favorite action dad, he shows a discerning eye for selecting ideal projects and roles. From the Taken series to The Grey, he's proven to be reliably adept at lending a dignified air of authority to the star-crossed characters he portrays as they desperately seek to bring order back to chaos. Non-Stop succeeds in extending his hot streak, stranding Neeson high in the sky for a claustrophobic whodunit that keeps the edge of the seat nice and warm.
This time around he's Bill Marks, a Federal Air Marshal that we know little about besides that he has a daughter and a drinking problem. As he boards a flight bound for London and we're introduced to his fellow passengers and crew, the film has great fun in setting up nearly everyone as a potential danger. When he inevitably starts getting anonymous texts on his secure network threatening a death onboard every twenty minutes unless he agrees to pay 150 million dollars, Marks springs into action to finger the culprit.
Could it be the seemingly helpful doctor (Omar Metwally), the forceful dissident (Corey Stoll) or perhaps his own fellow agent, Hammond (Anson Mount)? Or are the messages coming from an even more unlikely suspect, such as the friendly flight attendant (Michelle Dockery) or his chatty seatmate (Julianne Moore)? While paranoia reigns up in the air after the bodies start piling up, a frame job sees Marks himself regarded as the chief suspect and he ignores orders from his superiors on the ground to stand down.
Though there are plenty of contrivances used to generate suspense, the script is smart enough to stay one step ahead of the audience for the most part and inject some nice moments of sly humour throughout. For instance, when a bomb is discovered with its requisite countdown timer, a discussion about defusing it breaks down quickly when they find there are no wires for anyone to cut. Some of the twists and reveals along the way may not hold up quite as well under closer scrutiny, but they sure keep things absorbing as they unfold.
For all of the red herrings and misdirection planted among the large cast, this remains unquestionably Neeson's film, and he takes it squarely on his shoulders and carries it with great command. Every action star needs an iconic moment and, though Neeson has already had a few in his time, he gives us another one here to rival his best. The plane takes a precipitous dive at a crucial moment and then suddenly levels out, sending a gun that was sitting on the floor flying upwards. Neeson, unfazed as always, plucks it out of mid-air and starts blasting bad guys.