In recent years, Liam Neeson has seen a rejuvenation in his career. He has found a niche as one of modern Hollywood’s great, ageing action heroes, leaving many a dead bad-guy in his wake. His acting prowess has enabled him to bring a certain gravitas to what would otherwise be pretty standard action fare, and his gravelly voice and looming physical presence make the sight of him trouncing lowlifes not only enjoyable, but believable.
The best example of this is, of course, Taken (2008), a very shallow action film rescued from mediocrity by Neeson’s own brand of emoting and punching. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for his latest vehicle, Non-Stop.
The film’s premise is simple. Neeson plays a US air marshall named Bill Marks. He has a real dislike of flying and people in general. On what begins as just another flight, he begins to receive a series of text messages threatening to kill one of his fellow passengers every 20 minutes unless a wad of cash is transferred into a mysterious bank account.
This is a fantastic set-up for the new action-oriented Neeson to get his teeth into, and yet it lacks something. The claustrophobic setting and constantly ticking clock should make for a nail-biting experience, but it all descends into mild tedium. The films relatively short run-time should set the pace, but instead the film plods along rather predictably. Bill Marks doesn’t only carry a gun, he also carries with him several of the most well-worn action-hero clichés. He drinks too much, has a terrible family life and is generally very moody. Despite his acting chops, Neeson fails to elevate the material beyond the mundane.
The script only drags the film down further. Despite the odd flash of visual flair and camera-trickery, the narrative is as bland as the food on a long-haul. The inevitable twists and turns are nowhere near as clever as we’re led to believe. If you have seen a thriller before, or even a film before, this one will fail to trick you.