Reviewed by Ian Forbes
I started writing this review and placing SPOILER ALERT notes all over the place. Then I realized, I’m just going to say it now. If you don’t want the predictable plot ruined, skip to the grade at the end. I did make sure to avoid saying who the supposedly secret villain is. Though of course, I spotted that person the moment they stepped on-screen. But when you’ve seen as many of these dime-a-dozen thrillers as I have, it’s that much harder to surprise me.
Getting into specifics, I know it seems like a good idea to let Liam Neeson use his very particular set of skills wherever you can. Why not do it on a plane? At least, that’s the premise of Non-Stop. Neeson plays a Federal Air Marshal who, thanks to the clumsy script, is a walking cliché. He’s not just an alcoholic. He’s not just a man who’s lost a child. He’s not just a man with a gruff exterior but has a heart of gold. He’s not just the ex-cop who lost his badge to the combination of the previous three character points. He’s ALL of these things.
Seriously, the movie plays out like the screenwriters found some way to melt down generic action movies scripts (written between 1992 and 2002) into a blender, added gelatin, hit puree, and then pressed the result in an 8½ by 11 inch mold. There’s a little girl who reminds Neeson of his own child. A passenger with a medical condition that never factors into anything besides an early anecdote. A Middle Eastern man who becomes the instant red herring. A NYC cop who will lead the charge to make sure there’s no hijacking. Another Federal Air Marshal who may not be all that he seems. The flight crew who know our hero but at times doubt his trustworthiness. The list goes on and on and on.
Well, the scenario all these stock characters are thrown into is a non-stop flight across the Atlantic (where did they get that title!?). Once they’re over the ocean, Neeson gets a text (Woo hoo! Texts!): someone on the plane is going to die every 20 minutes unless $150 million dollars is transferred into a bank account. As Neeson scours the plane for the suspect, the character and plot reveals get harder and harder to stomach and by the time they make a connection between the events on the plane and 9/11, this wannabe thriller finally devolves into an unintended and unmitigated comedy, with very little action making the trip anything approaching worthwhile.
About the only thing I appreciated about the film was that the plane set didn’t feel too much bigger than a real plane. So … yeah … that was the positive aspect I can mention. Bottom line is that if you’re looking to see the best action film Liam Neeson has done since Taken … you should go re-watch Taken (the international version of course). Non-Stop should have had to reroute somewhere between finishing the script and calling action on set. It’s simply too hard to enjoy a movie when there’s such a disconnect between audience and filmmaker interpretation. I’d rather have sat through another showing of Snakes on a Plane. At least that movie knew it shouldn’t be taken seriously and did what it said it would.
Non-Stop opens in theaters on February 28, 2014 and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references.
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