Ok, who’s kidding who? This tense, terrific thriller starring Liam Neeson as Bill Marks, a boozy U.S. air marshal coping with a terrorist on a transatlantic flight from New York to London, isn’t new. It’s “Taken” on a Plane. Accept that and you’ll have a high old time.
Neeson could play this paycheck stuff in his sleep, but he gives it something extra. Marks has skeletons in his closet, family affairs he hasn’t managed to put in order. He’s an emotional basket case. But when the former NYPD cop takes his seat on this 767, he gets a wake-up call. It’s in the form of a text message from – yikes! – someone on board, demanding that $150 million be transferred to a secret account or a passenger will be killed every 20 minutes. The threat is serious. You can tell by the bodies that pile up.
Credit Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra, who worked effectively with Neeson on Unknown, for keeping your nerves in a vise even while juggling the trite contrivances in the script, by John W. Richardson, Chris Roach and Ryan Engle. Yes, it took three writers to line up the usual suspects.
Luckily, Non-Stop has a way-above-average cast for this kind of nonsense. Julianne Moore, as a passenger sitting next to Marks, looks trustworthy. Or does she? It’s that kind of movie. Corey Stoll, late of House of Cards on Netflix, plays a New York cop who seems a natural ally for Marks. Or is he? You get my point. It’s fun to see Oscar favorite Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) as a flight attendant. But you’ll miss her if you blink. Someone screwed up on that one. They do better with Michelle Dockery, Lady Mary on Downton Abbey, who shares flight-attendant duty but gets more screen time as she grows suspicious of Marks.
To avoid spoilers, I’m shutting up. I will say that until a preposterous ending that tries to turn a popcorn movie profound by making it topical, Non-Stop gets the job done. It’s fun to watch audiences jump in their seats and go, “Eek!”