Movie review: With Neeson, ‘Non-Stop’ gets more than it deserves

MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICEFebruary 28, 2014 

Liam Neeson reacts strongly to passengers who do not return their seats to the upright position.

  • NON-STOP ••

    Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references. Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Linus Roachex. Director: Jaume Collet-Serra. Running time: 104 minutes. Theaters: Edwards 22 and Edwards 9, Edwards 14 and Edwards 12 in Nampa, Majestic 18 and Village Cinema in Meridian.

The label “durable,” as in “durable leading man,” has never fit Liam Neeson more than it does in these late-career action pictures.

He still looks like he can take a beating, and so he does. He looks as if he can administer one or two, so he does.

He looks like he might have “particular skills,” his character’s famous self-description in “Taken.” And he proves it.

In “Non-Stop,” those skills would be those of a U.S. air marshal, one of the guys entrusted with keeping airline flights free from hijackings. His Bill Marks is a drinker and a smoker, a sad-eyed man who doesn’t like to fly but still does this dangerous job for a living.

And Neeson makes us believe in this guy.

“Non-Stop” is a solid, workmanlike action picture that builds slowly, bends over backwards to explain itself and its villain, and delivers a lulu of an ending.

Somebody is threatening the 150 passengers and crew, and framing Marks with the dirty work to his superiors back on the ground. In the wee hours of this red-eye from New York to London, that first text arrives on his “secure” phone.

“In exactly 20 minutes, I’m going to kill someone on this plane.”

Marks may have had a nip from a bottle before boarding, but he’s sharp enough to observe and profile every face on the plane — the hostile bald guy, the young black man in the sunglasses and hoodie, the Muslim, this nervous man or that too-friendly woman.

Julianne Moore plays a helpful passenger sitting next to him. Michelle Dockery (of “Downton Abbey”) is the flight attendant who trusts him with their lives. Linus Roache is the pilot.

They all give him the benefit of the doubt, up to a point. The script here goes to some pains to make Marks out as a possible suspect, something the viewer never buys into.

Marks struggles to get a handle on things, to keep the passengers in the dark. But as he rousts this one and manhandles that one, they get suspicious. There are New Yorkers on board.

“Does this scenario seem familiar?” they start to ask one another.

But tension is in short supply as we lurch toward that aforementioned lulu of a finale. The red herrings, throwing us off the scent of who is pulling the strings, are well-thought out; the resolution, not so much.

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