Non-Stop is the latest action vehicle from grumbly Irish giant Liam Neeson, who on this occasion has chosen the specific action vehicle of a hijacked Boeing 747 and he’s very angry about the lack of leg room. The basic premise of the film revolves around the idea that every 20 minutes an unknown terrorist onboard the flight will kill a passenger unless the authorities pay up or Liam heroically stops him, whilst in reality every 20 minutes someone in the audience will check their watch.
On entering the cinema I realised that it was full of men, all of them on their own, littered across the seats like a crèche for nerdy men. Men excited to hide in the darkness and live out their hero fantasies through Neeson. Like our hero I looked shiftily around at the other shifty patrons, who all looked shiftily back as if something shifty was going on. All hoping against hope for one thing, that this silly little film will be as good as Taken. SPOILER: It’s not.
Taken’s success was unprecedented, with an aging star known better for compiling (Schindler style) lists than taking names, it was expected to be a straight to DVD action movie but it went on to gross over $225 million worldwide. It was something fun, something different and refreshing in an action movie, for a start it had someone who could actually act in an ACTion movie. Keen to capitalise on this new career trajectory, he signed up for Taken 2 : Honey I Lost the Kids and just announced Taken 3 : Honey I Blew up the Everything. But what’s becoming clear is that with each ensuing film, Neeson’s action movie status is being diminished not by arthritis, but by lazy scripts and bad direction.
For example here’s a look at Non-Stop’s forgettably named main character William Marks, buzz in at any time if it sounds at all clichéd; Marks is a man an on the edge (buzz) a troubled soul with a drinking problem (buzz) with a dark past (buzz) family issues (buzz, buzz) who is forced into action (buzz, buzz, BUZZ) when he’s the only man who can stop the bad guys (*silence* oops I broke the buzzer!) in Non-Stop.
The cast are on the whole pretty good, Neeson gravels his way through the script, while Julianne Moore does some good ‘oooh is there more too my character than I’m letting on’ shifty actings while wearing some giant media glasses, and Downton Abbey’s Lady Mary, Michelle Dockery has gone from upstairs to downstairs (but on a plane so technically still upstairs) as one of the plane’s air servants.
One of the many problem’s with Non-Stop is its safe 12a certificate in the UK, which I‘ve noticed is also the rating for the new Robocop reboot, a franchise who’s original 1987 release was an 18 certificate (like other action movie classics such as Predator and Die Hard, which in its latest incarnation as A Good Day to Die Hard was also a 12a) I can’t help feeling that these action movies are being toned down to pass the censors and appeal to younger and wider audiences leaving the sense of threat and drama diminished as a result. Slowly watering down the ‘brand’ with each new movie (be it Taken, Robocop or Die Hard) until they count for nothing at all, like the watered down powers of a homeopathic drip.
The action itself is quite limited due to the fact you can’t fire a gun on a plane without bringing it down in the first 5mins, so Liam spends most of his time texting the hijacker, which begs the question why didn’t they save some money and give the part to a teenage girl. Audiences eager for non-stop action, as the double meaning in the title promises, might want to start consulting the trades description act. So you’d hope that without any truly satisfying action that the film’s paranoid premise which inspires the tag line ‘146 passengers, 146 suspects’ would be full of suspense. After all in the modern era of terrorist baddies anyone could be a potential killer. But somehow the film side steps any sense of atmosphere, there’s no real fear factor, just a bit of plinkety-plonkety music in the background substituting for any sense of tension in this cat and mouse game between Liam and the hijacker.
The film is not completely bereft of ideas, there is a good hand to hand close quarters fight in a plane toilet that gets the adrenalin pumping and other interesting touches like the passengers turning on Neeson assuming he’s the hijacker but it feels the real gold was the original premise itself (every 20mins someone onboard will be killed) and all the effort went into thinking that up, then the ideas dried up and the execution was fumbled, (see what I did there) leaving us with what an action film should never be, boring.
So file this one under missed opportunity (if you’re the kind of person who’s printing these out and filing them in specific quality designated cabinets, and if you are, seek help) a waste of a fun premise that left me a bit bored and sleepy a bit like being on a real overnight flight.
15 shifty looks out of 1000
Take a look at the other aging actors nipping at Neeson’s giant toes, here’s Costner trying to get in on the action (movie bandwagon) with 3 Days to Kill…