Words by Denis Semchenko
As plane hijacking flicks go, they range from unimpeachable genre classics (Passenger No.57) to laugh-out-loud incongruities (Snakes On A Plane taking the cake and the icing). The latest addition to the canon Non-Stop sits somewhere in between — and with time, it could lean more towards the former category if more films of the latter kind get made.
Typecast as the 21st-century action hero, Liam Neeson is only a notch dissimilar to his Taken persona as Bill Marks: an alcoholic, but still sharp air marshal of Northern Irish extraction haunted by the memories of his deceased young daughter. Seated next to a quick-witted redhead (Julianne Moore) on a fictional airline flight from LA to London, he receives a series of text messages with a blunt demand: make the airline pay me $150 million or I will murder the passengers one by one. To prove this isn’t a prank, the invisible hijacker dispatches the first pilot before activating assorted traps aimed at derailing the air marshal’s train of logical thought and leeching him of precious time. Marks has no choice other than to act immediately — which he does without pausing to utter a cracker along the lines of “I will find you and I will kill you.”
Although its plot is unabashedly fantastic given present-day airport security levels, Non-Stop delivers in spades on its title. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (who already worked with Neeson in Unknown), Non-Stop is a stone-cold digital age action film where a phone video uploaded to YouTube is a weapon as good as others and both regular and authority-wielding people can be cleverly tricked into aiding a criminal. Tough-guy Neeson — sublime as the villain in Batman Begins and Priest Vallon in Gangs Of New York — doesn’t deviate from being the new Chuck Norris, while Moore is a surprise choice for the “second banana” part given her dramatic-actress calibre. Still, the movie compensates for a lack of depth and a number of major script bloopers with an abundance of expertly choreographed fight sequences and Air Crash Investigations-like “disaster porn”. Stow away your luggage, fasten your seatbelts and mind your popcorn.
Non-Stop (action thriller, France/USA; running time: 106 mins) is out now.
Denis Semchenko is OffStreet’s former music editor and now contributor. He is a writer, vinyl enthusiast and serial muso.