Thursday, February 27, 2014

Non-Stop - 3 stars

Since Taken was released in 2009, Liam Neeson has had a pretty good career as an action hero.  The latest example is Non-Stop, in which he plays Bill Marks, a Federal Air Marshall.  While on a trans-continental flight over the Atlantic, he receives a text message saying that someone on the flight will be killed every 20 minutes unless a $150 million ransom is paid.

The movie starts out pretty slowly.  We know Marks is going through some kind of personal trauma.  Before getting on the plane, he sits in his car drinking whiskey and looking sadly at a picture of a little girl.  Just to make sure we get the message, the pouring and drinking of the whiskey is done in slow motion.  Then we get a few minutes of him moping through the airport, looking gloomy.  I wish the movie had sped this up a little.  It doesn't take 10 minutes of screen time to tell us he's depressed.

Once the plane is in the air and the text messages start coming in, it gets interesting. This is one of those Agatha Christie, Ten Little Indians type story.  A group of people are trapped in a location together and one of them is the killer.  The movie goes through the requisite steps to make us suspect different passengers could be the one sending the messages. 

Marks keeps coming up with different ideas of how to identify the killer.  First he's just watching and questioning people.  As he gets more desperate, he makes all the passengers go into coach and put their hands up.  From the passengers' point of view, they start to think this crazy Air Marshall is hijacking the plane.  Not only that, but the killer wants the money deposited into a Swiss bank account in Marks's name, so even his superiors on the ground start to suspect him.

This is also one of those movies where everything has to work out just perfectly for the bad guy.  He had to plan exactly when each step in a series of events would happen.  He had to know exactly how and when Marks would act for each step of his plan to work.  He has to be Kevin Spacey in Se7en smart. 

But despite how ridiculous the story gets, Liam Neeson is entertaining to watch, and the story is fun enough that I was intrigued.  I do wish it was a little more fun though.  There wasn't any humor in the movie, and while the story is gripping enough to make it enjoyable once, I don't think I would watch it again.  A movie needs several good scenes to be re-watchable, and there aren't any specific scenes I remember enjoying.  I just enjoyed the movie as a whole.

The supporting cast is fine but wasted.  Julianne Moore plays the woman sitting in the seat next to him, and she becomes his deputy or sidekick for a while.  Lupita Nyong'o plays a flight attendant, and this must have been filmed before she got all her Oscar buzz for 12 Years a Slave, or they might have given her a line or two.  As it is, all she gets to do is stand around and look concerned.  No other characters get developed much, which means the reveal of the killer doesn't have the impact it could have had. 

Overall, I recommend this movie.  It's pretty much exactly what you'd expect after seeing the trailer, and it's rarely boring (after you get past that first 10 minutes).  It doesn't do anything I haven't seen before, but it does the job.