This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 23rd February 2014
With his latest thriller, Liam “Action” Neeson confirms he has got caught in a loop. Despite stark, atmospheric photography and a curiously eclectic cast, Non-Stop is still essentially Taken on a Plane, none more resonantly than when Neeson’s straight-faced ex-cop growls down a cellphone at his anonymous foe and nearly slips into his now legendary “I will find you…” speech. It would be hard not to laugh, were the plot not, surprisingly, so gripping.
We meet Neeson’s Bill (no more a hero’s name than Brian, really) at the airport, where he squints suspiciously at a plethora of travelling stereotypes before boarding a flight amidst great mystery, thanks to attempts by film-maker Jaume Collet-Serra (who directed Neeson in Unknown) to push this standard action movie into slightly edgier territory. Bill winds up sitting next to Oscar-nominee Julianne Moore, no doubt cast to raise the tone of the piece and attract those for whom Taken on a Plane might be a sequel too far. Events rapidly unfurl as a terrorist threat is delivered and passengers start meeting their end à la Final Destination, as Bill tries desperately to identify the baddy and stop the carnage.
It’s a simple set-up, made all the more compelling by its single location inside an aeroplane cabin, with the obligatory punch-up in the loo and passengers jumping to 9/11-inspired conclusions. With some clever narrative points and many twists and turns, the illusion of long, continuous takes helps to increase the tension as we witness the gradual, sometimes deceitful unveiling of characters and their motivations.
So things seem to be going rather well, despite Neeson’s wooden acting (does anyone even remember the days of Michael Kinsey Schindler?), and then in the final half hour the silliness suddenly descends like a plane in distress, and even Moore can’t save it. If the destination therefore proves to be less rewarding than the journey, at least you’ll arrive with a smile on your face.