Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Lupita Nyong’o, Corey Stoll
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“I’m not hijacking this plane; I’m trying to save it!”
That’s Liam Neeson as Bill, an alcoholic, daughter-less, world-weary Air Marshall. Boarding a flight to London, he’s halfway through falling out with his bosses and co-agents, because he’s an alcoholic, daughter-less, world-weary Air Marshall.
On the way to his seat, he comforts a scared little girl by finding her lost teddy bear – a sweet moment of fatherly kindness, because he’s an alcoholic, daughter-less, world-weary Air Marshall. Then, he gets into a fight with a rude black man, because he’s an alcoholic, daughter-less, world-weary Air Marshall. But his day gets even worse when he receives a text warning that someone will die every 20 minutes unless a hefty ransom is paid – a threat that is too serious for Bill to ignore, because he’s an alcoholic, daughter-less, world-weary Air Marshall. Can Bill save the day and redeem himself from being an alcoholic, daughter-less, world-weary Air Marshall? What do you think?
It’s important to make sure that you do – not because Jaume Collet-Serra’s thriller is hugely intelligent, but because it isn’t.
Plot holes the size of jumbo jets fly through the set up, as Liam goes full Neeson on his fellow passengers, squinting, manhandling and threatening anyone who so much as looks like they could be a terrorist. But the pacing is sharp: the film is effectively a string of murder mysteries that unfold in 20-minute cycles. They are surprisingly well judged by the three-man script, which chucks in everything from poison darts to classic explosives. It’s like Tony Scott adapted an Agatha Christie novel.
John Ottman’s music, along with Julianne Moore’s likeable sidekick and one heck of a toilet-based fight keep you entertained for the duration of the flight. The fun, though, is not in the on-rails thrills but in noticing the absurdity of the details. From a roll of sticky tape getting through airport security to the random use of YouTube, this plane is held together by paperclips of logic. Meanwhile, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o follows up 12 Years a Slave with a role as a chirpy air hostess (boasting a dubious cockney accent), while House of Cards’ Corey Stoll pops up as a buddy cop who could have been drafted in from the 1990s. The bizarre mesh of stereotypes and coincidences comes into land with a final act that shrugs off sense altogether for sheer spectacle, introduced by nothing less than a Henry V-style rallying call from our hero – simultaneously one of the best and worst on-screen speeches of the year so far.
Yet, underneath the dumb surface, the location quietly adds to the tension: hot on the wings of Red Eye, Flightplan and even Snakes on a Plane, Collet-Serra uses the claustrophobic cabin and post-9/11 paranoia to fuel the engine’s suspense. There are no vipers here: this is Liam Neeson on a Plane. And he turns it up to 11. An alcoholic, daughter-less, world-weary Air Marshall? Sometimes, that’s all a thriller needs.
Non-Stop is available on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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