NON-STOP, beyond its other virtues or faults, clearly demonstrates two things. The first is that an action thriller doesn’t have to worry about logic if the momentum and handling make it entertaining. The second is that Liam Neeson can fully kick your ass.
Fans of the rugged, sensitive, ugly-handsome Irishman have understood the latter since the 1995 days of Rob Roy; a new generation of converts have been bowled over by the likes of Taken and The Grey. This 2014 flight of fancy may be light on likelihood (strike ‘may’), but starpower and panache carry the 106 minutes along with the velocity of the title.
Jetliner, mid-Atlantic. A TSA air marshal (Neeson) gets text messages telling him someone will die every 20 minutes unless he cooperates with a money-transfer scheme. The mystery texts are coming from somebody on the flight. Suspects abound, time ticks, business is meant: procedures can wait in line on the ground.
Directed with zip by Jaume Collet-Saura, who put Liam through the ringer in Unknown, the just-go-with-it popcorn muncher holds up its suspension of disbelief factor until the tail end (literally, in this case) when it goes bonkers. Helping or hindering the increasingly frantic lawman (the script has fun stacking the deck against him) are Julianne Moore (easy paycheck vacation), Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Corey Stoll, Nate Parker, Omar Metwally, Linus Roache, Bar-Paly (holy mile-high waiting list!) and Lupita Nyong’o (thankless role with almost nothing to do).
Fueled at $50,000,000 for audience fast-filmfood consumption, it zoomed back with $223,000,000 and the obvious possibility of a sequel with the flawed but likable, decidedly capable character. If there’s a 65-year old bruiser out there who could pull it off, it’s Liam Neeson. As to how this one works out its plot, what are you, the passenger who holds up everyone because your friggin’ luggage with rollers can’t fit into the overhead, won’t put away your cell phone and then kicks the back of the seat for two hours? Relax: it’s Fights on a Plane, not Agatha Christie.