With the recent disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, “Non-Stop” has been released in interesting juxtaposition with current events. Director Jaume Collet-Serra’s newest Liam Neeson action flick has a plot based largely around a terrorist attack on a commercial airliner — subject matter that is difficult to disassociate from the current headlines. However, the movie’s pushing pace and clever camera work help to liberate it from its associative shackles.
In “Non-Stop,” Neeson plays Bill Marks, a worn-out Air Marshal with a painful history. His flight to England is interrupted when Marks receives a series of anonymous text messages threatening to kill one passenger every 20 minutes until $150 million dollars are transferred to an offshore bank account. With the help of fellow passengers Jen Summers (Julianne Moore) and Tom Bowen (Scoot McNairy), Marks struggles to find the killer before it’s too late.
Unfortunately, the most notable flaw of this movie is Neeson’s performance. Neeson seems exhausted from the moment the movie starts — hardly diverting from a stoic, unmoving delivery of lines and underwhelmed reactions to situations. This exhaustion in turn exhausts the viewers, who begin to respond to the film the way Neeson responds in the movie — that is to say, not at all.
Another consequence of a dull performance is that Neeson is vastly overshadowed by his co-lead Julianne Moore, whose performance is almost exactly what Neeson’s is not. She is constantly full of energy and engaged — and is many times more interesting to watch than Neeson.
Despite Neeson’s flat-line acting, the movie’s plot and pace are thrilling. We are simultaneously fearful for the passengers on the plane, trying to solve the mystery and keeping up with the constant flow of new information. Collet-Serra does an outstanding job of keeping the pace of the movie quick. There’s never a slow moment during which the audience can wander. The action is constantly engaging, which does the movie an enormous favor.
Finally, the filming of “Non-Stop” was incredibly effective. For a movie with 90 percent of the scenes set inside an airliner, the picture rarely feels claustrophobic or tight. Wide shots across the interior of the plane help to avoid suffocating the audience. At the same time, the filming doesn’t feel fake or cheap.
For people with a fear of flying, “Non-Stop” isn’t the best pick. For the rest of viewers, the movie delivers quick-paced action and effective camera work, as long as one can sit through an especially boring performance by Neeson.