RATING: ★★★ (3/4)
Liam Neeson has seemingly transformed his Hollywood career and found a niche as the stoic lead role in a multitude of exhilarating action films. Although perhaps not on par with the likes of Taken or The Grey, Neeson’s most recent movie, Non-Stop, is a high-octane thriller that will not disappoint.
Before you hound me for giving this seemingly generic film a rather high rating, let me briefly explain my evaluation paradigm. I embrace the critical philosophy of the late Roger Ebert (hence why I use a 4-star as opposed to 5-star rating system), arguably the greatest film critic in cinematic history. His approach essentially entailed assessing films in a realistic, unpretentious manner that remained cognizant of the movie’s intended target audience…many might be surprised to learn that he gave films such as Spider-Man 2 and Sin City perfect scores. So when I evaluate a film such as Non-Stop, keep in mind that I more or less seek to juxtapose it with movies such as The Bourne Ultimatum or Mission Impossible III, which in my book are 4-star action films.
While an intriguing plot and stellar performances are vital to most any film, the evaluation criteria for action movies are slightly different. In my opinion, there are two key aspects that constitute a solid action thriller. First, the movie must have a strong lead role. Whether it is Matt Damon in the Bourne films, Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible series, or Bruce Willis in the Die Hard classics, action movies more so than other genre are strongly associated with its protagonist. Second, and more importantly, it is paramount that the movie maintains a high level of intensity, as audiences primarily see action films for the adrenaline rush.
Non-Stop fulfills both of these criteria with flying colors. Liam Neeson brilliantly portrays an alcoholic air marshal who is thrust into a chaotic situation when he receives anonymous, passenger-threatening text messages while on board a transatlantic flight. Neeson exhibits his remarkable ability to provide a film with an extraordinary level of gravitas, while at the same time demonstrating a heart-pounding sense of urgency. Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously collaborated with Neeson in the 2011 thriller Unknown, is able to effectively grasp the audience’s attention in an exhilarating manner.
While Non-Stop will certainly keep you on your toes for the better part of two hours, the film is certainly not devoid of flaws. First, there are several plot holes that will probably irritate more attentive moviegoers. However, the movie’s fast pace and constantly shifting plot should mitigate such concerns and allow for an overall enjoyable viewing experience. Perhaps my biggest critique is the fact that the film’s ending is rather spontaneous and out of left field, or at the least not symmetric with the majority of the movie.
In a post 9/11 world, films that chronicle airplane calamities are typically rare occurrences for obvious, understandable reasons. To me, the Harrison Ford classic Air Force One, as well as the more recent films United 93 and Flight, sets the standard for movies that take place in the stratosphere. Regardless, Non-Stop is a worthy second-tier choice for adrenaline junkies and casual moviegoers alike.
Check out the trailer here!