Non-Stop is a 2014 mystery suspense action thriller set aboard a flight from New York to London, starring none other than Liam Neeson. It's fortunately not in the style of Taken, whereby almost everything is offset by enjoyable, brainless action and a completely illogical plot, but this being from this specific genre with Liam Neeson it's often hard to let off so easily. Sure, we gain a sympathetic situation from an air marshal with horrific problems to deal with (I couldn't help it when it was announced his daughter had died from acute leukaemia at the age of 8, mirrored with the conversation with Jennifer about the blue ribbon that his 17 year old daughter had given him because despite being who he is, he's still pretty much a damaged person), the film itself doesn't often follow through with the morality themes it has given itself. To an extent, it is entertaining in a better way that you have to use your brain (for the most part), but has an ancient habit of not in the least well done plot devices.
Liam Neeson is Bill Marks, an air marshal, who discovers the flight he is on has someone threatening to kill a passenger on board every 20 minutes if $150 million is not wired to a given account number. The set-up is simple and solid and we come to an understanding of a thrilling suspense ride that combines both intelligence and action. The hype is definitely not surprising.
We gain much of this from the acknowledgement of the question many people would be asking: "How do you kill someone on a passenger plane without anyone noticing?" I mean, with the limited space 40,000 ft. above the ground, it would be too easy. That film wouldn't exactly be the most popular.
It helps that we are given a conventional beginning to lead us through, with the usual action of boarding the plane (his alcoholism is prominent right from the start) and interacting with crew members and passengers. In particular he takes a shine to Jennifer Summers (played by Julianne Moore) and manages to find trust in Steward Nancy Hoffman (played by Michelle Dockery).
This is significant to the plot strength, because if he is to discover how someone kills someone aboard a passenger plane discreetly, he needs to know about the other passengers and that includes asking for help. Although, there's a weakness here - of course it's meant to be difficult considering the circumstances and what better way than to throw a plot twist in there? However, it does stretch out coherently enough, really only until the final act where a plot device manages to make its way in.
What doesn't make sense is that Bill gains and regains people's trust too quickly in spite of the revelations. Perhaps the sympathy card was played for that reason - they can't trust him enough as an air marshal but after airing his problems people have no other idea but to. I suppose it wouldn't work if he didn't have the jaded persona, but at the same time it doesn't come naturally. If they had only one reason to trust him it would be because what he was doing was trying to save their lives and that they had to. The media is a volatile outlet and to retract the statement of being the FBI's (we're talking high class investigation here) prime suspect in a hijacking wouldn't be that easy to do.
The film sometimes forgets that it aims to bring its own morality to the table due to its own idea of logic. The distrust is too often forgotten, the theme of futility and hope getting more intermittent as the film progresses and whether the physics of being able to muffle a bomb blast in an airplane while managing to land it and have the present passengers all survive still sounds questionable. But a specific saving grace happens to be a young girl named Becca, travelling alone to meet her father, a walking symbol of a fragment of Bill's life that he can finally share an experience with that he was never able to last with his own daughter. The blue ribbon being quite obvious.
To an extent, this film is an enjoyable ride that sets up on a take-off with a solid, excusable premise that misses points and jumps too quickly. It is refreshing to see a wide range of people represented, showing a distinctive power of a lack of discrimination. When Bill doesn't know who to trust, it's simple to know he's doing it out of a genuine lack of knowledge and that he addresses those he needs to in order to know what's really going on. What doesn't work though, is that what ends up as a possible development ends up being squandered for the usual kind of ending - Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson looking at each other in the style of a happy ending of a romantic comedy. Being a mystery suspense action thriller, that's definitely not what I was expecting (for a Liam Neeson film, I was hoping he didn't have to do this).
Boasting a glorious set of characters with a note-perfect choice of voice actors, you need to see this more than once to catch all the humour, wit and charm that this film rolls out. Not only that, the satire isn't watered down by the beautiful story behind it. It doesn't just poke fun at everything from pop culture to business or overpriced coffee to Siri, but there's a lot of respect in something built from a corporate franchise that can teach a lot about morality and creativity at the same time.
It lacks the whimsical and static nature of the first one, finally being able to move on and become more confident in its approach. Shaking off the shackles of the book it is adapted from, we involve the complexity of the suspenseful and energetic journey that gains the characters free rein in allowing time to be pensive or sentimental and stop without grinding the plot to a halt. In a time of conflict and distrust, it is almost balanced.
The 'boss scene', as how they might call it, is fortunately given a great amount of room to develop than just a simplistic face-off. Despite the enormity and majesty of Smaug, the deep, baritone voice of Benedict Cumberbatch certainly proved the grace yet intimidation of all that it needed. It was much better than Bilbo having to solve riddles from Gollum or rescue the dwarves from trolls, and the planning paid off as the production crew were having a field day with motion capture.
The Elves are however neglected, appearing at first to wonderfully illustrate how arrogant and skeptical they are before disappearing and reappearing only when needed. Apart from Legolas finally being able to do more than stare blank-faced into the camera and say the obvious, we receive an element fractured in its execution of a poorly done romance - even for a fantasy.