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Airplane action movie starts strong but ends in a nosedive

Non-Stop is an above average thriller that gets you in the theatre and thoroughly entertains you for 110 minutes. During your stay, you are treated to a great cast of actors in low-key roles that build tension as they bounce conflict off one another. This is all wrapped in the security blanket of Liam Neeson’s strong, yet vulnerable, performance.

The 61-year-old actor looks purposefully beaten down and tired, and he’s milking his action movie career renaissance for all it’s worth. He is put to good use here, offering up all the physical acting he can.

Security, paranoia, and the surveillance state are themes that suitably and subtley form the wings of this small-scale film. Neeson’s character, Bill Marks, is an air marshal framed for hijacking a plane. It quickly becomes worldwide news, affecting the paranoid state of the passengers. The foggy lens and blue tinted colour palette offer up a cold, isolated tone that add to this effect. The whole setup feels timely and well put together.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra is known for navigating high-concept premises and grounding them at the edges of plausibility with the similar 2011 Neeson vehicle Unknown, and 2009’s Orphan. Once again, he has trouble sticking the landing by not quite putting all his promising pieces together.

Characters behave believably in a hostage situation for the first two thirds of the movie, in ways that are  convincing, yet unexpected. This direction alone makes the film stand out among forgettable thrillers in recent years by digging into its characters rather than exhausting the premise, even if it falters during the finale. This is something similar airplane movies like Flightplan and Red Eye seem to struggle with. Non-Stop carries its name and smartly never feels like it’s biding its time.

However, the climactic action of the film sends the movie into a creative nosedive. It’s frustrating seeing such enjoyable rides go downhill after a large promising while, but most of the ride is fun enough to recommend and the denouement sends the film off with a relaxed breather.

Next to all of the other action offerings shown this past month in theatres, this may be as close to a first-class trip you’ll see in theatres this winter season.


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