A flight of fancy destined for a hard landing

You can imagine the pitch: frenetic actioner set on a plane and a killer’s on the loose. There’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. 

A grizzly old ex-cop now air marshal, Marks (Neeson), is tasked with finding a killer who has threatened to kill one passenger every 20 minutes unless his demands are met.

Non-Stop is sort of like Speed meets Cluedo – in the sky. 

At times though, it’s less Liam Neeson and more Leslie Neilsen, by which I mean closer to the 1980 spoof Airplane in the laugh quota than was likely intended.

A fallen star
For an actor once associated with the iconic leads he created in Schindler’s List and Michael Collins, Liam Neeson has certainly dropped altitude of late – albeit, apparently, by deliberate choice. 

While I admit to having missed the Taken series, Neeson’s current modus operandi seems to be redefining his brand by way of positioning himself as Hollywood’s go-to over-50 action hero and lining his pockets accordingly.

This is something he’s been remarkably successful at thus far, despite films of varying quality.

One such mis-step, Unknown (2011), first united Neeson with this film’s director, Jaume Collet-Serra (whose 2005 debut film House Of Wax was responsible for Paris Hilton’s first foray into feature film ‘acting’), and perhaps goes some way to explaining Neeson’s presence here.


Hard to remain seated
Bill Marks is an alcoholic air marshal on a flight from New York to London. Clearly damaged goods – his wife divorced him and he lost his daughter to leukaemia – before long we’re watching him pace the aisles, not only tracking an onboard killer (that might possibly be himself), but also trying to prevent the detonation of hidden explosives. 

Julianne Moore brings further acting weight on board as his drinking companion come romantic interest (and potential suspect), but sadly fails to convince us that she isn’t feeling several miles above this material. 

Moore rarely looks at ease and often appears embarrassed, bored or lost, while to his credit, Neeson remains admirably committed to charging through the ludicrous plot holes, big enough to consume a lesser performer, all the while exhibiting absolute sincerity, even during the most banal or bizarre scenes – of which there are plenty.

Please turn off your phones
The cardinal sin of creating drama around that most uncinematic of objects – the mobile phone – is committed ten-fold here as Marks communicates with his antagonist largely via SMS. 

Similarly ill-advised decisions are too numerous to mention (clichéd dialogue that not even Moore can rescue and an airline named ‘Aqualantic’), but none show less foresight than the relegation of Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) to the stewardess sidelines.  

There’s amusing rumours that Kenneth Branagh, soon to return to our sets as the Swedish detective Wallander, is quietly envious of Liam Neeson and looking himself to break into the mature action hero market which, outside the cast of The Expendables series, Neeson seems to have cornered. 

Based on the evidence of Non-Stop, I’d say Branagh would be better advised to stay in Sweden.



2/6 stars

Dir: Jaume Collet-Serra; UK/Fr/US, Thriller, 2014, 106 mins; Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Corey Stoll, Michelle Dockery, Lupita Nyong’o

Premiered April 10
Playing Nationwide

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