Entertainment LIFESTYLE  >  Movie of the Week: “Non-Stop”

Movie of the Week: “Non-Stop”

Movie of the Week: “Non-Stop”
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I wouldn’t exactly describe “Non-Stop” as a white-knuckle ride, but it is non-stop entertainment…a mixture of Hollywood cheese and ticklish thrills that seems just about right to be opening a week before the sanctified bestowing of the Academy Awards.

And it stars Liam Neeson who by now heads up a cottage industry classing up otherwise rote actioners during the wintry, early months of the year.  Just watching him take out evil villains 30 years his junior is gleeful fun. And he doesn’t have to strip down to a white tank top to do it. Neeson has carved a place for himself as a macho man’s man…without ever needing to pump up or trade on his hulking physicality.  In fact, I think it’s the promise of what’s beneath his Everyman exterior that makes him so appealing. And also his lovely Irish accent of course.

That accent is not disguised here, and there’s even a nod to it in the script. Playing an Irish born, former New York City cop Bill Marks, Neeson is well cast as a U.S. air marshal, policing the airspace in the wake of 9/11. Bill also hides a tragic past, and stifled emotions are dulled by a heavy drinking habit and self-imposed solitude.

The cliches don’t pile up as much as follow one another in an orderly manner, adding up to a film that delivers unsurprising, but nevertheless enjoyable beats and stock characters from the well-thumbed playbook of genre filmmaking. Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey”) is the kindly, trustworthy flight attendant whom Bill turns to for help. Julianne Moore is the kooky passenger sitting next to Bill who may know more than she lets on. Corey Stoll (“Midnight in Paris”) is the volatile off-duty police officer who challenges Bill. Omar Metwally (“Rendition”) is the muslim doctor, surely a red herring with his prominent prayer cap and calm demeanor. Blink and you may miss Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong’o as a superfluous flight attendant with a couple of throwaway lines. A host of other faces may or may not be the person who starts texting Bill with ominous threats: a person will die every 20 minutes unless he arranges for a wire transfer from the airline of 150 million dollars.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra (“Orphan”) seems to be enjoying the challenge of creating tension through claustrophobia, and the suspense picks up every time Dockery briskly swishes closed the curtain separating business from economy. There’s an ingenious start to the action, but the proceedings pretty quickly settle down to a familiar “threat on a plane”, so much so that the film could have been titled “Airport ‘14”. But Neeson is so commanding and so good at playing gruff, tenacious, take-charge men that it’s easy to forgive the laziness of the script (by John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach and Ryan Engle).  I came out of the theatre with many questions about who had what weapons and how they got them (fast-cut editing muddled much of the action) but then I realized that thinking about “Non-Stop” wasn’t really the point.  As pure visceral sensation, it works pretty well. And if I were on a plane with bomb-carrying, poison-dart-inflicting, texting lunatics, I’d want Liam Neeson in the seat next to me.

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