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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Non-Stop 2014 * * * Stars

Non-StopDirector: Jaume Collet-Serra
Year: 2014
Rated PG-13
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery

If you go in thinking that you're gonna see Die Hard on a plane, or Taken on a plane, or Passenger 57 (ugh), or whatever, think again. It's not that kind of a party. I mean, I wouldn't quite qualify what I just saw, a full-on action movie. No, Liam Neeson's newest winter release (he does a lot of those) kinda plays out more like a drama, or a thriller, or a more violent, less comedic version of 1985's Clue. Yes, I'm talking about the current number one hit at the box office, Non-Stop. Yeah, its got a couple of neck cracks and head butts. However, if you're set on seeing Neeson play action guru at an outrageously alarming rate, check that notion right at the door. For most of the way though, the proceedings grab you within the first 15 minutes without letting go. It's an old fashioned ride but it has a little bit of everything. Its got a little Twilight Zone in it, a whole lot of paranoia courtesy of Neeson, and a storytelling device consisting of cell phone texts as heightened subtitles (this was also used briefly and effectively in 2013's Fruitvale Station). Overall, Non-Stop isn't totally first class entertainment (get it), but as a cheeky, nous of a movie, it sure as heck gets the job done.

Taking place on a 747 flight from New York to London and featuring a slow moving opening scene consisting of the art of people watching, Non-Stop examines a jobless, alcoholic, air marshal in Bill Marks (Neeson). He comes off as sad, lonely, and disconnected (his daughter died of cancer at age 8 so what did you expect). It's not quite revealed why he gets on the plane but within a short time period, he receives text messages from a would-be terrorist bent on killing a passenger on board every 20 minutes (until said wacko gets a 150 million smackeroos). Neeson's Marks then decides to save the day by interrogating everyone on board until the culprit is rightfully found.

One of the passengers featured on British Aqualantic 10, is played by Julianne Moore as Jen Summers. Moore's role feels out of place in this thing as it did in last year's Don Jon. Her presence is a slight hiccup for me here but it's no big deal. Another passenger is a flight attendant played by newly crowned Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o. Compared to her turn in 12 Years a Slave, her screen time as Gwen Lloyd barely registers at all. The only reason I remembered her being in Non-Stop, was of course the funky Grace Jones-style haircut. Finally, we have Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery playing flight attendant Nancy Hoffman (another possible suspect and there are lots of them). She's solid in a role that involves a lot of reacting (which some say, is harder than actual acting).

Anyway, despite an ending that seems like cheesy, tacked on Hollywood smut (I was kinda hoping that there would be another twist to make the film a tad more exhausting (and that's a good thing)) and most of the players in the cast exhibiting acting that is at times, mediocre, Non-Stop still works for two reasons. Its suspense factor is completely off the charts because it's a whodunit. That's the hook. When you find out who the actual hijackers are, it seems like sort of a letdown because there are so many other juicy, suspicious characters to choose from. It doesn't matter though because almost 80% of the previous amount of running time is riveting, nail biting stuff.  Well crafted in a Sherlock Holmes sort of way by Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra, the second reason Non-Stop works is of course, Liam Neeson. Masculine, tall, and all grizzled up, he's still one bad dude. He's also in my mind, the coolest movie star on the planet. He slips into the role of Bill Marks like a comfortable old shoe. And basically, he could play this part in his sleep (or in a coma, I'm serious).

So without further adieu, you should get in your car, drive to the movie theater, buy a ticket, grab a big bucket of popcorn, and get settled in. Yeah, it's that time again, time to get "Neesoned". All aboard!

Written by Jesse Burleson

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