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Film Review: Non-Stop

27th February 2014

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Liam Neeson is on typical flawed hero form in this (occasionally) tense action offering, set on a troubled transatlantic jet somewhere between New York and London.

Non-Stop attempts to latch on to the collective nightmare of being in a plane that might just go down, and presents the human dilemma of a potential hijack situation in a straightforward and simplistic way – who is this man threatening our safety? Should we intervene? What is going on?

Is it predictable? Yes, most of the time, and the occasional twists are not original or thought-provoking enough to redeem it. Certain moments are cheesy beyond belief – US air marshal Bill (Neeson) is being held to ransom by an unknown and mysterious hacker, who is sending text messages demanding $150 million – or one person on board will die every 20 minutes. In a maybe-or-maybe-not deliberate reference to Taken, one message needlessly asks how Bill’s daughter is doing. Really?

The script is action hero-ready and full of dramatic cliché, especially in the scene in which Bill explains to the terrified and volatile passengers what exactly is going on and how, despite appearances, he really is a good guy. Honest.

And so the characterisation is got out of the way without much fuss (Neeson is a messed up bent cop who loves his daughter and is just trying to do the right thing, ok?) and events can transpire without the need for any more in-depth thinking.

Non-Stop could very easily be accused of being lazy, and using post-9/11 neurosis for nothing more than cheap shock value. Is this a fair assessment? Well, it isn’t completely unfair – more foregrounding of the characters’ psychology would have made events much more believable (and hence affecting) than they actually are. Instead, events seem to be thrown in for no other reason than that a speedy conclusion needs to be reached, and for an easy way out.

But then, this is silly, big budget, and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who is also responsible for 2011’s Unknown (another is-he-isn’t-he Liam Neeson blockbuster), as well as Orphan (2009) and 2005’s House of Wax, which inexplicably featured Paris Hilton. So we expect froth and destruction as standard – not an in-depth journey into the post-9/11 psyche of the emotionally embittered American. Let’s leave it as what it is, a predictable action flick with a pretty cast (Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery) – and take it entirely at face value.

It’s a formula that works well for Neeson, and it does its job, which is to shallowly entertain. See Non-Stop, in the manner that you saw Unknown, Taken, Taken 2, and the rest – on a lazy evening, when you’re tired and you don’t want to be challenged. At all. 

Non-Stop is released in cinemas on 28th February 2014.

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