Mar 1, 2014

Enjoyable actioner at a weak time of year for movies.


Grade: B

Director: Jaume  Collet-Serra (Unknown)

Screenplay: John W. Richardson

Cast: Liam Neeson (The Grey), Julianne Moore (Carrie)

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 106 min.

by John DeSando

Bill Marks (Liam Neeson):  “I hate flying. The lines. The crowds. The delays . . . . ”

Jen Summers (Julianne Moore): “I always kinda liked it. Six hours. One seat. Nobody can get to you.”

So you ask me to recommend a film after the Oscars and before the better summer fare. Ordinarily I’d tell you to wait until then because this time of year traditionally offers mediocre or worse movies.  Now I can recommend an enjoyable experience with all the thriller tropes in good form and a hero to be admired: Non-Stop with Liam Neeson. Contrary to the above quote from Jen, somebody “gets” everyone associated with this flight.

Neeson’s Bill Marks is an alcoholic air marshal who doesn’t like to fly and gets caught in an electronic terror aboard a transatlantic flight to London. He's  trying to find out who aboard is sending texts calling for a passenger death every 20 minutes until the airline puts $150 Million into a safe account.  Marks is himself a suspect (the off-shore account is in his name!), and he has to kill to remain in the game.

Wait, wait—it gets more fantastical, from a number of suspects the director, Jaume Collet-Serra, has planted in various frames, as any respectable thriller would, to the big red LED lights ticking off explosion time.  But what makes it all believable is the unbelievably adept acting of Neeson, who looks heroic with his solid tall frame and crooked nose.

Non-Stop does not stop giving the audience faces to put behind the terror, and Neeson turns out to be as resourceful as Denzel Washington’s drunken pilot in “Flight.” The director also deftly careen’s through the cabin with Bill to relieve the imprisoning small space feel all planes give, even in movies.

Working previously with Neeson, the director knows how to coax the credible out of him, keeping his uncharacteristic smiling for a final scene and not too much of it. Well, who can blame Marks, when troubled but helpful passenger Jen (Julianne Moore) is the object of that good feeling?

Like all air trips, Non-Stop has its dull moments yet enough action to help moviegoers through the movie dead zone to better flights in May.

By the way, don’t see this film if you fly regularly to London.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at