Combustible Celluloid
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With: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Corey Stoll, Lupita Nyong'o, Omar Metwally, Jason Butler Harner, Linus Roache, Shea Whigham, Anson Mount, Quinn McColgan, Corey Hawkins, Frank Deal, Bar Paly, Edoardo Costa, Jon Abrahams, Amanda Quaid
Written by: John W. Richardson, Chris Roach, Ryan Engle
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references
Running Time: 106
Date: 02/28/2014

Non-Stop (2014)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Jet Peeves

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Non-Stop takes two old reliables and puts them in the same movie. First, we have the Die Hard formula, wherein the hero is stuck within a confined space -- like an airplane -- overcoming ever-worsening obstacles and trying to outwit the bad guy's carefully laid evil plans.

Then we have Liam Neeson, who may be one of the last bona-fide movie stars left in a business focused mainly on franchises. Since the success of Taken in 2009, Neeson has become an unlikely action hero. He's in his sixties, not a body builder, not a martial artist, not a magazine model, and is actually a trained -- Oscar-nominated -- actor. However this bizarre phenomenon came about, it's most welcome.

Neeson plays air marshal Bill Marks; as the movie reiterates many times, he's a drunk, a failed cop, and a failed family man. He doesn't even like flying much, but he boards a flight for London anyway, and prepares to do his job. An unknown person texts him, warning that someone on the plane will die every 20 minutes unless $150 million is wired to a special account.

Unfortunately, the more Bill tries to find the bad guy and solve the problem, the more it starts to appear as if he's the problem. Before long, he's being blamed for all the trouble.

Julianne Moore plays a spunky redheaded passenger who somehow believes Bill's story and tries to give him a hand. Moore and Neeson had played a married couple in Atom Egoyan's Chloe, so they already have a warm chemistry.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously worked with Neeson on the 2011 thriller Unknown sometimes uses the cramped quarters to tense effect, such as a fight between two air marshals in a tiny lavatory. The fight requires quick little blows and nasty short shots rather than big, graceful movements, and it's quite effective.

Collet-Serra seems best at these smaller moments. Bigger action scenes in the main cabin are less interesting. Moreover, the screenplay is far from flawless, and astute viewers will probably find a few holes here and there, as well as questioning the motive behind the whole sinister plan.

But with a large cast of familiar faces, at least the film does a terrific job of planting red herrings and keeping suspects at arms' length.

On a pure gut level, Non-Stop cooks up some terrific, swift suspense, and it's all rooted in that appealing, hangdog face of Neeson's. Let's hope his career keeps flying.

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