Which is one of the many ways that Non-Stop feels not only stale, but also like a failure. In so many of his recent efforts, from Taken’s inevitable sequel to The Grey, Neeson has failed to fully recapture the magic he had in 2008, and each new effort, some more monetarily successful than others, has felt just slightly off. Non-Stop, however, feels completely off, and it became clear very quickly that this was a film that could not have been saved. Let me be perfectly clear here, nothing works in Non-Stop. Neeson plays Bill Marks, a down-on-his luck father and Air Marshall, who is apparently infamous for his well-known drinking problem, who finds himself boarding a Trans Atlantic flight to London where his mettle as a law enforcement officer will be put to the ultimate test.
Right off the bat, we are introduced to a multitude of characters, each less interesting than the last. There’s the conflict-heavy passenger who immediately gets into a war of words with Marks at the security check-in while refusing to ever get off of his cell phone; the cute flight attendant and crew who all are well-versed in the ways of Bill Marks, and trust this known alcoholic willingly with their lives; the additional air marshal who clearly has some issue with Marks as well; and just for the heart strings, the cute girl who reminds Marks of his daughter, the NYPD officer because this movie will stop at nothing to remind us of 9/11 and naturally, the biggest cliche in the book, the Muslim passenger whom everyone assumes is a terrorist. It’s one thing to include all of these tropes, it’s another to be blatantly racist toward the Muslim, and to do so repeatedly. Why do they even include this character anymore? We get it, people have jumped to the wrong conclusion about a Muslim at nearly every mention of an attack of national emergency since September 11th, to continue to do so is offensive and boring, seeing as it will likely be another decade at least until a major motion picture has the guts to actually make this character the culprit at the end.
When things go bad, Marks begins getting anonymous text messages from someone claiming to be on the plane, and having the ability to kill a passenger every 20 minutes until Marks negotiates the payment of $150 million to an account that has been conveniently set up in Marks’ own name, thus raising suspicion about his innocence. These texts are delivered in one of the most obstructive manners possible, and the film gets way too cute for it’s own good in this regard. Rather than just having the camera show these texts when they’re read by Marks, they are instead super-imposed onto the screen, complete with auto-correct animations when Marks is the one texting in response. It becomes intrusive to the viewing experience and annoying within 10 minutes.
Because he has been sitting next to her the entire trip to this point, Marks puts his faith in “the only one he can trust”, Jen Summers, played by Julianne Moore. Summers is a fairly pointless character throughout the film. When things break down and all of the evidence points toward Bill as the hijacker, she is conveniently left out of the common area where the passengers are being held so as to avoid her having much interaction with anyone not played by Liam Neeson.
When the conclusion does come, it is accompanied by a few ham-fisted speeches, a plot twist that can be seen coming at any altitude and one of the more ridiculous action moments you’ll see this year. I also cannot wrap my head around the idea of making Marks an alcoholic, while still making him the unquestioned hero of the film. Was this supposed to be a commentary on the men that we allow to protect our airspace, or a redemptive story claiming that we have the right men in place for the job asked, and that we jump to conclusions based on the personal lives of these air marshals? It’s a mixed message and a very bad one at that.
Non-Stop hits every action beat we’ve seen before with no apologies, it features uninspired acting, an extremely predictable plot twist, pointless characters and some of the most in-your-face 9/11 connections I’ve seen outside of United 93. It borders on manipulative, and is one of the worst films Neeson has put out in his illustrious career. I cannot in good conscience recommend this film to anyone, there simply isn’t any fun to be had here.