“Non Stop” boredom

Kyle Garrett, Staff Writer

 

Watching Jaume Collet-Serra’s “Non-Stop,” one can’t help wondering how Liam Neeson’s career came to this. Once a highly respected actor, Neeson now seems to be something of a Hollywood joke to be enjoyed ironically.When he turns out work of actual merit like “The Grey,” people act like they’ve been cheated.

 

He seems to almost take on a role parodying his turn in 2008’s “Taken,” and his newer audience won’t be disappointed. This is a waste of potential, taking a promising setting and turning it into a jumbled mess of boredom, troubling politics, needless violence and the signs of a script that hadn’t finished editing when the film was shot.

   

Liam Neeson is Bill Marks, an alcoholic racist who was given a gun and badge and assigned to prevent any other incidents like the Sept. 11 attacks as a Federal Air Marshal. In a rather effective opening sequence, we’re elegantly introduced to his family troubles, his struggles with drink, his prejudices and career, and some of the major players for what’s to come.

Neeson, despite the state of his career, is still every bit the actor he was in the days of “Rob Roy” and its like, so he carries this well up until Marks gets on the plane, at which point the whole ride starts falling apart. He suddenly gets a text message from one of the passengers under his watch, demanding that $150 million be sent to a specific bank account, or someone on the plane will be murdered every twenty minutes until he does.

   

This is a concept that should have gone somewhere. The idea of a sort of “Die Hard”-esque mystery thriller on a plane might not be mindblowingly original but has the potential to at least be entertaining. With the setup of Bill’s character at the start, not exactly subtle but with a certain cinematic touch that still delivered effective characterization, we could have had an interesting personal drama amid the high-flying murder mystery.

   

What we got instead is a ridiculously twisting plot whose turns seem motivated less by intrigue and more by genuine cluelessness as to the direction it wants to go, filled with pointless red herrings and a message at its core that is jumbled at best. It simultaneously criticizes the American post-Sept. 11 culture and props it up.

 

After a time spent building up Neeson’s character and questioning his reliability, setting up the classic “Fight Club” twist as it goes, all of that is dropped after an impassioned and melodramatic speech that instantly persuades the hundreds of people who’d just been rightfully terrified of him.

   

In any good work of fiction, all the characters do things for reasons. In “Non-Stop,” nobody does anything for any reason but that is what the plot asked of them. People pull complete 180 degree spins from their established personalities for the purpose of a twist, appear out of thin air with skills pulled from their back ends just to push the film along, and certain characters disappear entirely after several minutes of runtime were spent lodging them in the viewer’s mind.

“Non-Stop” is a frustrating movie that feels like it never quite left the editing room. What could have been a serviceable thriller or even an intriguing character study is spoiled by the people behind it simply having no idea what they wanted from this film.

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