Liam Neeson's Career Reinvention Rages Onward "Non-Stop" Review

Once upon a time, Liam Neeson would have been spending the week leading up to the Oscars preparing to attend as a nominee. Today, he is preparing for the release of Non-Stop, the latest installment in a bizarre but awesome career renaissance that began with 2008’s Taken and has continued with films including The A-Team, Unknown and The Grey. At the age of 61, Neeson has succeeding in doing the reverse of what many actors struggle to do: he has made the transition from serious actor to action star. He is clearly having fun in the autumn of his career, and one cannot blame him when the results are as entertaining as Non-Stop, an energetic thriller elevated out of mediocrity by his presence.

Neeson plays Bill Marks, a former NYPD officer turned air marshal who is on board a flight from New York to London when he receives a series of strange texts on his phone. An anonymous passenger is threatening to kill one person every twenty minutes until $150 million is deposited into a bank account. Marks’ quest to get the crew and passengers to cooperate and aid him in discovering the would-be killer is not made any easier by his aggressive, unorthodox tactics or the discovery that said bank account is registered in his name. Soon the body count begins to rise as Marks finds his attempts to be a hero thwarted by everyone else’s belief that he is in fact the villain. Believe it or not, it can be pretty damn hard to track down a texting killer on a plane.

Marks is a grab-bag of every antihero stereotype in the screenwriting book (He’s an alcoholic! He has guilt over being a bad father! He’s known for breaking the rules!), yet because he is played by Neeson, you can’t help but care about him. Neeson is capable of taking clichéd moments, such as a slow-motion sequence of pouring whiskey into a coffee cup to start the day or a monologue about the mistakes he has made in his life, and injecting them with the same magnetism that he brought to Oskar Schindler, Rob Roy and Alfred Kinsey. The fact that he can not only do this, but also fight men half his age, cements Neeson as a true movie star in my book, and one of the main reasons why Non-Stop is worth watching. It helps that he is supported by a group of solid actors whose talent far surpasses the usual people lured to portray the flimsily-constructed supporting characters in these kinds of projects; one wonders if the presence of Neeson in the main role helped make that happen. Familiar faces includes Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery, House of Cards’ Corey Stoll, 12 Years a Slave’s Oscar-nominated Lupita N’yongo, and, in a fantastic turn as Marks’ snarky seatmate, Julianne Moore. Moore and Neeson have great chemistry, and it is refreshing to see that the female lead opposite our hero is someone remotely approaching his age.

During the first three-quarters of the film, Non-Stop lives up to its title. It is an intense, action-packed ride that made me the most anxious I have been in a movie theater since seeing Captain Phillips (clearly, the claustrophobia of all overseas travel just gets me). Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously directed Neeson in Unknown and also helmed the horror flicks Orphan and House of Wax, is masterful at building the tension to his big reveal. Unfortunately, said big reveal of the film’s villain and the motivation behind the crime is so silly that it nearly ruins everything else that Non-Stop manages to achieve. I am not sure why the writers came up with a movie that is ostensibly Taken on a plane and then used it to make an awkward attempt at a statement about our country’s dissatisfaction with those responsible for our national security. It feels odd and unnecessarily dark.

Despite the absurdity of the ending, Non-Stop is a solidly enjoyable thriller and a good tonic for those sick of the seriousness of Oscar season movies. I wish Neeson many more years of playing similar conflicted heroes beating up bad guys on the big screen. Goodness knows, he is damn good at it.

"Non-Stop" opens February 28, 2014 and is rated PG13. Action. Directed by Jaume Collet Serra. Written by John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach, Ryan Engle. Starring Corey Stoll, Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Michelle Dockery.

Lee Jutton • Staff Writer

Lee attended NYU for Film & TV Production, but she now works mostly in PR. Her primary obsessions in life are Doctor Who, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Arsenal F.C. When not writing about things she's watched, she's running or kickboxing in preparation for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. 


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